The Historical Epistemology of Scientific Styles

9th International Workshop on Historical Epistemology

27-28 June – Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia


JUNE 27, 2024 (Sala Morelli) 

9:00 Welcome

9:15 Guillermo Cimbora Acosta, Universidad de Sevilla

Denkstil, self-vindication, and the dialectic of experimental practices.

10:00 Stefano Pilotto, Sapienza Università di Roma

Thinking by tools. Observations on a “technical style” in history of science

11:15 Luca Sciortino, Ecampus University

Styles of reasoning and the demarcation problem 

12:00 Sofia Abelha, Universität Wien

What is new about anti-exceptionalism about logic?

15:00 Eleonora Montuschi, Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia

Styles of scientific practice: the case of citizen science

15:45 Luis F. Bartolo Alegre, LMU München

Is logic a style of reasoning?

17:00 Ben Toth, CFCUL Lisbon

The summer of theory. Crombie and Foucault, styles and fields


JUNE 28, 2024 (Aula Baratto)

9:30 Antoine Auvé, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne

Style and personality in Dilthey’s epistemology: from the method of the historian to the historiography of the emergence of modern science

10:15 Paolo Babbiotti, Università di Torino

Two stylistics methods for “the problem of style” in philosophy. Compression and lingering (in Bernard Williams and Stanley Cavell) 

11:30 Aurore Franco-Ricord, IHPST Paris

Scientific styles and cultures struggles: the case of endosymbiotic theory

12:15 Caroline Angleraux, INSERM Tours

Styles and desuetude: the case study of Haeckel’s monera

15:00 Julia Reed, Bar-Ilan University

Scientific styles of making and re-making sex

15:45 Matteo Pasquinelli, Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia

Three styles of AI: induction, vectorialisation, and modelling 

17:00 Johannes Endres, University of California Riverside

Style and epistemology: basic strictures, and open questions


This workshop is organized by:

Épistémologie Historique. Research Network on the History and the Methods of Historical Epistemology

With the support of: 

Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia, Dipartimento di Filosofia e Beni Culturali;

IHPST (UMR 8590, Paris 1/CNRS);

Université de Bourgogne, LIR3S (UMR 7366 CNRS-uB)

IMGWF, Universität zu Lübeck

Organizing committee:

Caroline Angleraux (iBrain U1253, INSERM de Tours)
Lucie Fabry (Université de Bourgogne, LIR3S)
Iván Moya-Diez (IMGWF, Universität zu Lübeck)

Perceval Pillon (IHPST)

Matteo Vagelli (Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia)

Further information:


Variations on Styles, Historical and Philosophical Perspectives

Spring 2024 – Online Seminar

Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia – Department of Philosophy and Cultural HeritageEuropean Commission – This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 101030646, “EPISTYLE”

Organizer:Matteo Vagelli (Ca’ Foscari/Harvard)

Link zoom:

APRIL 29, 2024

17.30h CET – 16.30h GMT – 11.30 GMT-5

Chunglin Kwa, University of Amsterdam

The Dance and the Machine: The Islamic Reinterpretation of Ptolemy 

MAY 20, 2024

17.30h CET – 16.30h GMT – 11.30 GMT-5

Paolo Babbiotti, Università di Torino

Some Reflections on Style from the Perspective of Contemporary Anglo- American Philosophy

MAY 27, 2024

17.30h CET – 16.30h GMT – 11.30 GMT-5

Monica Calabritto, CUNYTruth, Verisimilitude, and Fiction: Narrativizing Early Modern Medicine and Law

JUNE 3, 2024

17.30h CET – 16.30h GMT – 11.30 GMT-5

Sergio Martinez, UNAM

Styles of Reasoning as Emergent Features of Cognitive Niches

JUNE 24, 2023

17.30h CET – 16.30h GMT – 11.30 GMT-5

Arianna Betti & Hein van den Berg, University of Amsterdam

Hacking for the Future: How to Model Styles of Reasoning and Scientific Revolutions


Matteo Vagelli, PhD

Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow (Ca’ Foscari University of Venice/Harvard University)

CFP – 9th International Workshop on Historical Epistemology: The Historical Epistemology of Scientific Styles (Venice, 27-28 June 2024)

Call for papers

9th International Workshop on Historical Epistemology

The Historical Epistemology of Scientific Styles

Venice, 27-28 June 2024



Presentation of the research network

This Workshop is the 9th edition of the annual meeting of the International Research Network on the History and Methods of Historical Epistemology. This network, founded in 2015, currently brings together 80 members from different countries, whose work is related to historical epistemology in a broad sense. It thus welcomes specialists in French epistemology of the xx century as well as people who have contributed to the renewal of historical epistemology under the impulse of members of the Max Planck Institute in the history of science. The objective of the activities of this network is not so much to separate historical epistemology radically from other studies of science, but rather to create a dialogue between different philosophical studies on the history of knowledge that pay particular attention to the conditions of emergence of scientific disciplines and their objects.

Each edition of the Workshop focuses on a specific theme. The previous edition, held in Dijon, was dedicated to the philosophy of environmental sciences. The former ones focused on the following themes: “Arts and Sciences, Historicizing Boundaries” (2022), “Historical Epistemology and Epistemology of History” (2020), “The Philosophy of Life Sciences: historical epistemology of biology and medicine” (2019), “Historical epistemology and the disunity of science” (2018), “For an historical epistemology of technological transformations” (2017), “A history of the present” (2016); “Historical epistemology: beginnings and current issues” (2015). The programs and arguments of the previous editions can be found at

Presentation of the 2024 edition on scientific styles

The 2024 edition of the workshop will also be the closing event of the EPISTYLE project “Style Matters: Scientific Pluralism and its Early-Modern Sources”, led by Matteo Vagelli under the supervision of Hasok Chang, Peter Galison and Marco Sgarbi since 2021. It will invite network members to contribute to the reflections on the key questions of the EPISTYLE project: “what happened to the traditional concept of style when it was migrated from rhetoric and the arts to the fields of history and philosophy of science? Where does the idea of different ‘styles’ of knowing come from, and how did the idea of an historically evolving plurality of standards of scientific inquiry emerge? To what extent do the objects of the sciences owe their existence to the styles that have enabled them to emerge and rendered them thinkable?”. For a presentation of the EPISTYLE project and its past activities see epistyle.

At different times and in different contexts, the notion of ‘style’ has been linked to knowledge and science (e.g. Fleck 1935, Daston-Otte 1991; Crombie 1994; Hacking 1982, 1992; Davidson 2001; Bredekamp-Schneider-Dünkel 2015; see Vicedo 1995, Gayon 1999, Sciortino 2023). Philosophers, historians, sociologists and scientists have made appeal to this notion generally in order to highlight the plurality and historicity of scientific ‘ways of thinking’. Since the 1970s, ‘style’ became involved in the so-called ‘pluralist turn’ in history and philosophy of science. (e.g. Ruphy 2017; see Vagelli 2024)

In contrast with the contemporary prevalence of empirically oriented micro-histories, styles of reasoning have been recognized as part of attempts at thinking up new forms of ‘big picture’ histories of science: “not as grand linear narratives, but as multi-levelled accounts of the conditions that made different kinds of science possible.” (Elwick 2012) In this light, a comparative anthropology of non-Western ‘styles of inquiry’ (e.g. Lloyd 2004) and an ‘ecological history’ of human reason have also been undertaken. (e.g. Hacking 2012)

This workshop is motivated by the question of whether ‘scientific styles’, variously defined, can be an object for historical epistemology. We will start by investigating the relation that a history of ‘scientific styles’ entertains with ‘classical’ historical epistemologies by Gaston Bachelard and Georges Canguilhem, for instance, or with Michel Foucault’s archaeological and genealogical models of historiography. Do these different approaches resonate with one another and to what extent? For example, Gilles-Gaston Granger’s use of the concept of style could be compared with later uses of the concept by Hacking. (Granger 1968)

The historical and epistemological underpinnings as well as the historiographic consequences of the notion of “style” will be at the center of the 9th Workshop on Historical Epistemology. We hope the discussion will be a moment for philosophers, historians and sociologists of science to encounter scholars with different methodological approaches. In particular, we expect contributions falling along one or more of the following five axes:

  1. Rediscovering ‘styles’: Who (why, when, and where) contributed to the idea of science and knowledge being characterized by one or more styles of thinking and doing? The workshop encourages further study of both better known as well as relatively neglected or uncharted sources for the idea of ‘styles’ in science. These can be found, especially, but not exclusively, in the work of philosophers, historians, sociologists, as well as in that by scientists themselves.
  2. A history of scientific ‘styles’: Is ‘style’ equally apt to account for continuity and discontinuity in the history of science and knowledge? Is it only meant to highlight the relativity of ‘styles of thinking’ or can it also be constructed in order to be able to account for progress in science? To what extent does the style-concept allow the mapping and refined analysis of emerging forms of science, such as those underpinning, for instance, artificial intelligence and the environmental sciences?
  3. ‘Styles’ from within/from without: What is the relation between ‘styles’ and their exteriority? Can the demarcation problem be rephrased through the notion of ‘style’? What makes a style of reasoning ‘scientific’ and what is the relation between scientific and ‘non-scientific’ styles (i.e. both literary, artistic, religious and ordinary or common-sense styles)? Can forms of knowledge ‘from below’, ‘citizen science’ or ‘community science’ be conceived of as ‘research styles’ in their own terms? What does the adoption of a given ‘style’ of inquiry imply on the level of the shaping of the scientific-selves? Can not only a history of forms of objectivity, but also of forms of subjectivities be told from the perspective of scientific styles?
  4. Social epistemology of ‘styles’: Since Fleck (1935), sociological analyses of scientific styles have played an important role in science studies. (e.g. Harwood 1993; Hunger-Seebacher-Holzer 2010) Moving from this background, and taking stock of the more recent acquisitions of STS approaches, we would like to raise the question as to what role does the intersubjective and collective dimension of ‘style’ play in the establishment, success and/or failure of given forms of investigation? What are the social conditions and larger implications of scientific ‘styles’? Is the talk of ‘national styles’ in science still relevant today? Is a ‘stylistic’ inquiry of science capable of capturing the institutional aspects and the power-dynamics at stake in the production of knowledge?
  5. Alternative concepts to styles: What is the added value (if any) of an analysis of knowledge and science conducted in ‘stylistic’ terms? What does the word and the concept of “style” add (if anything) to concepts such as ‘methods’, ‘ways of knowing’, or ‘research programmes’? What are the blind spots and presuppositions of the concept of style? What objections can be addressed to approaches that use this concept, from the perspective of philosophy, history and sociology of science?

Proposals (500 words plus a short presentation of the candidate) must be sent by April 15, 2024 (notification of acceptance or refusal will be sent by April 31), in .doc format, to The workshop will be conducted in English.


Bredekamp H., Schneider B. and Dünkel, V. eds. 2015. The Technical Image: A History of Styles in Scientific Imagery. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Crombie, A. C. 1994. Styles of scientific thinking in the European tradition: The history of argument and explanation especially in the mathematical and biomedical sciences and arts (Vol. 3). London: Duckworth.

Daston, L. and Otte, M. eds. 1991. Style in Science, special issue of Science in Context, vol. 4, no 2.

Davidson, A. 2001. The emergence of sexuality: Historical epistemology and the formation of concepts. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

Elwick, J. 2012. Layered History: Styles of Reasoning as Stratified Conditions of Possibility. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A, Part Special Issue: Styles of Thinking, 43, no. 4 (December 1, 2012): 619–27.

Fleck, L. 1935 [1979]. Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.                          

Gayon, J. 1999, On the uses of the category of style in the history of science. Philosophy & Rhetoric 32/3: 233-246.                                                 

Granger, G.-G. 1968. Essai d’une philosophie du style. Philosophies pour l’âge de la science. Paris: A. Colin.

Hacking, I. 1982. Language, truth and reason. In M. Hollis & S. Lukes (Eds.), Rationality and relativism (pp. 48–66). Oxford: Blackwell.

Hacking, I. 1992. ‘Style’ for historians and for philosophers. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, 23(1), 1–20.

Hacking, I. 2012. Language, truth and reason thirty years later. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, 43: 599–609.

Harwood, J. 1993. Styles of Thought. The German Genetics Community 1900-1933. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Hunger, H., Seebacher, F. and Holzer, G. eds. 2010. Styles of Thinking in Science and Technology. Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference of the European Society for the History of Science, Vienna, VÖAW Verlag. Lloyd, G. 2004. Ancient Worlds, Modern Reflections: Philosophical Perspectives on Greek and Chinese Science and Culture. Oxford University Press.

Ruphy, S. 2017. Scientific Pluralism Reconsidered. A New Approach to the (Dis)unity of Science. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.

Sciortino, L. 2023. History of Rationalities. Ways of Thinking from Vico to Hacking and Beyond. Cham: Palgrave MacMillan.

Vagelli, M. 2024. Styles of Science and the Pluralist Turn: Between Inclusion and Exclusion. Revue de synthèse 145(7), 3/4: DOI: 10.1163/19552343-14234053

Vicedo, M. 1995. Scientific Styles: Toward Some Common Ground in the History, Philosophy and Sociology of Science. Perspectives on Science 3/2: 231-5.

This workshop is organized by:

Épistémologie Historique. Research Network on the History and the Methods of Historical Epistemology

With the support of:

  • Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, Department of Philosophy and Cultural Heritage;
  • European Commission (This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 101030646, “EPISTYLE”);
  • IHPST (UMR 8590, Paris 1/CNRS);
  • LIR3S (Laboratoire interdisciplinaire de recherche Sociétés, Sensibilité, Soin, UMR7366 CNRS-université de Bourgogne);
  • IMGWF, Universität zu Lübeck.

Organizing committee:

Caroline Angleraux (iBrain U1253, INSERM de Tours)
Lucie Fabry (Université de Bourgogne, LIR3S)
Iván Moya-Diez (IMGWF, Universität zu Lübeck)
Perceval Pillon (IHPST, Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne)
Matteo Vagelli (Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia)

Call for abstracts: Styles of Thinking & Doing in the Ecological History of Scientific Knowledge and Practices (Symposium at the 11th ESHS Conference, Barcelona 4-7 September 2024)

Dear colleagues,

Please find below a call for contributions to the 11th ESHS Conference (Barcelona, September 2024), on the symposium Styles of Thinking & Doing in the Ecological History of Scientific Knowledge and Practices.

Interested scholars are invited to send a paper proposal by November 18th, 2023 to Matteo Vagelli ( and Joseba Pascual-Alba (

Proposals should include a file of two pages with the following information:

    – (Page 1): Name, affiliation and a short bio (max 150 words).

    – (Page 2): Title and abstract (max 250 words).

Best wishes,

Matteo, Joseba


Call for contributions:

Proposal for a Symposium at the 11th ESHS Conference, Barcelona 4-7 September 2024. Science, Technology, Humanity and the Earth.

Symposium: Styles of Thinking & Doing in the Ecological History of Scientific Knowledge and Practices

Ian Hacking (1982) initiated the project of exploring ‘styles of scientific reasoning’ by drawing from Alistair C. Crombie’s (1994) historical investigation on ‘styles of scientific thinking in the European tradition.’ Through this project, Hacking emphasized that ‘reason has a history’ and how standards of rationality emerge and evolve historically. Recognized as a valuable historical and philosophical tool for analysis (Hacking 1992), various historians and philosophers of science began incorporating this concept into their research (e.g., Davidson 1987; Gavroglu 1990; Schweber 1997; Radick 2000; Reck 2009; Elwick 2007; Winther 2012, 2013, 2015).

In later installments of his style project, Hacking (2012) related what he came to call ‘styles of thinking & doing’ to a cognitive and an ‘ecological’ history of reason (Atran 1990; Netz 1999). The aim of this symposium is to provide a reassessment of Hacking’s project, by engaging closely and critically with Hacking’s arguments on scientific styles. In this respect, some of the questions that this symposium will discuss are: What are the implications of Hacking’s theory of scientific styles at the level of language, truth, and understanding? What roles have styles played throughout the history of the sciences? How effective are styles as a historical-philosophical tool for comprehending scientific knowledge and practices? In what philosophical and historical ways could this project be further developed, especially within the context of an ecological history? 

Appel à contributions pour le Cahier Bachelard n° 18 : Suzanne Bachelard

Les propositions d’articles, d’une longueur de 30 000 à 50 000 signes, espaces et bibliographie comprises, doivent être envoyées par mail à l’adresse d’ici le 20 décembre.

Les propositions retenues par le comité éditorial seront ensuite soumises à une évaluation en double-aveugle par des pairs. Voir le Guide pour la préparation des manuscrits.

De Suzanne Bachelard, née en 1919 et décédée en 2007, on retient souvent les photos de Suzanne enfant, fille unique de Gaston Bachelard, élevée par son père qui l’a initiée dès son plus jeune âge aux congrès de philosophie. Au-delà de cette image, l’œuvre et la carrière de cette historienne et philosophe des sciences ont jusqu’à présent été peu étudiées. Ce numéro des Cahiers Bachelard cherche à y remédier en invitant à analyser différents aspects de la vie et de l’œuvre de Suzanne Bachelard.

Licenciée de mathématiques et agrégée de philosophie en 1946, Suzanne Bachelard commence sa carrière comme agrégée-répétitrice à l’École normale supérieure de Sèvres, et soutient ses thèses de doctorat d’État en 1957. Sa thèse principale de doctorat d’État a pour titre La conscience de rationalité : étude phénoménologique sur la physique mathématique (Suzanne Bachelard 1958a; Russo 1959) ; sa thèse complémentaire consiste en une traduction et un commentaire de Logique formelle et logique transcendantale de Husserl (Husserl 1957; Suzanne Bachelard 1958b; Lacroix 1958; Piatier 1957). Suzanne Bachelard obtient d’abord un poste de professeure à l’université de Lille, avant de devenir professeure à la Sorbonne en 1963 et directrice de l’Institut d’histoire des sciences et des techniques de 1971 à 1984 (Mosconi 2007; Pariente 2007; Gayon 2016).

Nous mettons en avant trois axes dans l’étude de son œuvre, tout en accueillant toute autre proposition qui entrerait dans le thème de ce numéro.

Axe 1 : Une réception de la phénoménologie husserlienne

Un premier axe d’étude de l’œuvre de Suzanne Bachelard consiste à étudier son rôle dans l’histoire de la phénoménologie française et, plus spécialement, dans l’histoire des réceptions françaises de la phénoménologie husserlienne. On pourra lire, dans cette perspective, le commentaire que Suzanne Bachelard a proposé de la logique de Husserl (Suzanne Bachelard 1958b; Benoist 1997), mais également l’effort proposé dans La conscience de rationalité pour appréhender la spécificité de la démarche scientifique en mobilisant les ressources conjointes de l’épistémologie bachelardienne et de la phénoménologie husserlienne.

Dans l’étude de ces textes, on pourra notamment se demander si Suzanne Bachelard reconnaît la pertinence de l’opposition entre une « philosophie du sujet » et une « philosophie du concept » dont Foucault (1994) a soutenu qu’elle était structurante dans l’histoire de la philosophie française du XXe siècle, ou si elle contribue à la remettre en cause. Foucault trouvait cette distinction formulée dans l’œuvre de Jean Cavaillès (1947), qui avait élaboré sa propre conception de l’activité scientifique dans une critique serrée de la logique transcendantale husserlienne (Vissio 2019). On pourra ainsi se demander ce qui singularise l’approche de Suzanne Bachelard parmi ces lectures épistémologiques de Husserl, en la comparant à celles qui ont été proposées par Cavaillès ou par des auteurs comme Gilles-Gaston Granger ou Jean-Toussaint Desanti.

Axe 2 : Suzanne Bachelard historienne des sciences

L’autre axe mis en avant dans ce numéro porte sur la pratique de l’histoire des sciences portée par Suzanne Bachelard. Nous accorderons une place importante à l’article « Épistémologie et histoire des sciences » (Suzanne Bachelard 1970), où elle définit ses propres orientations historiographiques en prenant position par rapport à celles de Gaston Bachelard (1972), mais aussi d’Alexandre Koyré (1966), Georges Canguilhem (1955) ou Michel Serres (1967). Selon Suzanne Bachelard, les principes historiographiques défendus dans « L’actualité de l’histoire des sciences » (Gaston Bachelard 1972) fondent une historiographie où « l’intérêt pour l’histoire est subordonné à l’intérêt pour la science » (Suzanne Bachelard 1970, p. 44). Soulignant les limites de cette dernière approche, elle cherche à ouvrir la possibilité d’une étude des sciences qui, tout en continuant à se présenter comme une « histoire épistémologique » (p. 46) et à assumer un caractère rétrospectif et normatif, propose une mise en œuvre plus prudente de l’histoire récurrente, qui se concentre sur « la micro-histoire » (p. 49) plutôt que sur les grands récits, et qui met en question les découpages spontanés du savoir. On pourra ainsi chercher à situer les positions de Suzanne Bachelard dans les débats sur la spécificité de l’histoire des sciences (Grimoult 2003), en les comparant notamment aux textes de Canguilhem (1975; 2009) ou Foucault (2008) qui reprennent également de l’œuvre de Gaston Bachelard cette question de la spécificité de l’histoire des sciences.

Un autre texte qui pourra retenir l’attention est « Quelques aspects historiques des notions de modèle et de justification des modèles » (Suzanne Bachelard 1979), où Suzanne Bachelard apporte une contribution à une épistémologie des modèles (Perru 2004; Varenne 2014), en formulant notamment une critique des thèses de Pierre Duhem (2016). Pour voir ces partis pris épistémologiques et historiographiques à l’œuvre dans l’étude de l’histoire des sciences, il serait particulièrement précieux de proposer une lecture des études historiques qui nourrissent La conscience de rationalité, prolongés par les travaux en histoire de la mécanique que Suzanne Bachelard a consacrés à Maupertuis et au principe de moindre action (Suzanne Bachelard 1958c; Suzanne Bachelard 1961), et par ses travaux en histoire de l’algèbre (Suzanne Bachelard 1967).

Axe 3 : Suzanne héritière et éditrice de Gaston

Un troisième axe consisterait à approfondir l’étude de ce qu’a impliqué, pour Suzanne Bachelard, d’être la fille de Gaston. Nous avons déjà mis en avant, dans la présentation des deux axes précédents, l’importance que le dialogue avec l’œuvre de Gaston Bachelard avait prise dans son propre itinéraire d’historienne et de philosophe des sciences. Mais parallèlement à cette comparaison des œuvres des deux Bachelard qui cherche à y déceler des formes d’héritage intellectuel, d’autres ressources pourraient être mobilisées pour interroger ce statut d’héritière d’un point de vue sociologique. On pourrait par exemple se proposer d’éclairer la trajectoire de Suzanne Bachelard par une étude sociologique des carrières féminines (Fauvel, Coffin et Trochu 2019), qui interroge les formes et les effets qu’a eu sur cette carrière le fait d’être immédiatement identifiée comme étant la fille de Gaston Bachelard. Une telle étude pourrait ainsi contribuer à montrer quelles possibilités et quelles impossibilités caractérisent les carrières féminines placées sous le signe de l’héritage du père, Suzanne Bachelard offrant une étude de cas remarquable dans la mesure où elle a occupé, à la fin de sa carrière, exactement les mêmes fonctions que celles qu’avait son père.

Il est également possible d’aborder cette question de l’héritage en un sens plus littéral, pour souligner que Suzanne Bachelard a eu un rôle d’exécutrice testamentaire. On pourra notamment étudier, dans cette perspective, le travail éditorial effectué par Suzanne Bachelard dans la publication posthume des *Fragments d’une poétique du feu* de Gaston Bachelard, en se demandant quels ont été les choix effectués dans l’établissement du texte, et quelle lecture Suzanne Bachelard y a donné de l’œuvre de son père.

Bibliographie indicative

Bachelard Gaston, 1972, « L’Actualité de l’histoire des sciences » dans L’engagement rationaliste, Paris, Presses universitaires de France (coll. « Bibliothèque de philosophie contemporaine »), p. 137‑152.

Bachelard Suzanne, 1979, « Quelques aspects historiques des notions de modèles et de justification de modèles » dans Élaboration et justification des modèles, Paris, Maloine, vol. 2/1, p. 3‑19.

Bachelard Suzanne, 1970, « Épistémologie et histoire des sciences » dans Actes du XIIe congrès international d’histoire des sciences, 1. A : Colloques, textes des rapports, Paris, A. Blanchard, p. 39‑51.

Bachelard Suzanne, 1967, La représentation géométrique des quantités imaginaires au début du XIXe siècle, Paris, Palais de la Découverte (coll. « Les conférences du Palais de la Découverte Histoire des sciences »).

Bachelard Suzanne, 1961, Les polémiques concernant le principe de moindre action au XVIIIe siècle, Paris, Palais de la Découverte (coll. « Les conférences du Palais de la Découverte – Histoire des sciences »).

Bachelard Suzanne, 1958a, La Conscience de rationalité, étude phénoménologique sur la physique mathématique, Paris, Presses universitaires de France.

Bachelard Suzanne, 1958b, « La Logique de Husserl », Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 1958, vol. 19, no 1, p. 126‑127.

Bachelard Suzanne, 1958c, « Maupertuis et le principe de la moindre action », Thalès, 1958, vol. 9, p. 3‑36.

Benoist Jocelyn, 1997, Phénoménologie, sémantique, ontologie : Husserl et la tradition logique autrichienne, Paris, France, Presses universitaires de France.

Canguilhem Georges, 2009, « Le rôle de l’épistémologie dans l’historiographie scientifique contemporaine » dans Idéologie et rationalité dans l’histoire des sciences de la vie : nouvelles études d’histoire et de philosophie des sciences, Paris, J. Vrin, p. 11‑36.

Canguilhem Georges, 1975, « L’objet de l’histoire des sciences » dans Études d’histoire et de philosophie des sciences, Paris, J. Vrin, p. 9‑23.

Canguilhem Georges, 1955, « La formation du concept de réflexe aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles ».

Cavaillès Jean, 1947, Sur la logique et la théorie de la science, Paris, Presses universitaires de France.

Duhem Pierre, 2016, La théorie physique. Son objet, sa structure, Lyon, ENS Éditions (coll. « Bibliothèque idéale des sciences sociales »).

Fauvel Aude, Coffin Jean-Christophe et Trochu Thibaud, 2019, « Les carrières de femmes dans les sciences humaines et sociales (xixe-xxe siècles) : une histoire invisible ? », Revue d’histoire des sciences humaines15 décembre 2019, no 35, p. 11‑24.

Foucault Michel, 2008, L’archéologie du savoir, Paris, Gallimard (coll. « Tel »).

Foucault Michel, 1994, « Dits et Écrits n°219, Introduction à la traduction anglaise du Normal et du pathologique de Georges Canguilhem, trad. ang. par Carolyn R. Fawcett et Robert S. Cohen, Boston, D. Reidel, 1978 » dans Dits et écrits, III, Paris, Gallimard, p. 429 sq.

Gayon Jean, 2016, « L’institut d’histoire des sciences », Cahiers Gaston Bachelard, Cahier N° 14, <halshs-01286480>.

Grimoult Cédric, 2003, Histoire de l’histoire des sciences : historiographie de l’évolutionnisme dans le monde francophone, Genève, Librairie Droz.

Husserl Edmund, 1957, Logique formelle et logique transcendantale : essai d’une critique de la raison logique, traduit par Suzanne Bachelard, Paris, France, Presses universitaires de France.

Koyré Alexandre, 1966, Études d’histoire de la pensée scientifique, Paris, Presses universitaires de France.

Lacroix Jean, 1958, « Logique et Phénoménologie », Le Monde, 25 janv. 1958.

Mosconi Jean, 2007, « Éloge de Suzanne Bachelard »,

Pariente Jean-Claude, 2007, Retour à Bar-sur-Aube , 6 décembre 2007.

Perru Olivier, 2004, « Le modèle, le vivant et la complexité », Revue des questions scientifiques1 avril 2004, vol. 175, p. 113‑132.

Piatier J., 1957, « Quand les femmes se mêlent de logique… », Le Monde, 1 juill. 1957 p.

Russo F., 1959, « Recension de La conscience de la rationalité. Etude phénoménologique sur la physique mathématique », Archives de Philosophie, 1959, vol. 22, no 2, p. 312‑314.

Serres Michel, 1967, « Les anamnèses mathématiques », Archives internationales d’histoire des sciences, 1967, no 78‑79.

Varenne Franck, 2014, « Épistémologie des modèles et des simulations : tour d’horizon et tendances » dans Les modèles, possibilités et limites, Paris, Éditions Matériologiques (coll. « Modélisations, simulations, systèmes complexes »), p. 13‑46.

Vissio Gabriele, 2019, « Jean Cavaillès, de la logique de Husserl à la dialectique du concept » dans Jean-François Braunstein, Matteo Vagelli et Iván Moya Diez (eds.), L’épistémologie historique : Histoire et méthodes, Paris, Éditions de la Sorbonne (coll. « Philosophie »), p. 59‑71.

AAC – CFP Journées 2023

[English below]

8e journées d’étude sur l’épistémologie historique

L’épistémologie historique des sciences de l’environnement

Université de Bourgogne, 8 et 9 juin 2023, Amphithéâtre de la MSH de Dijon

Nous vous invitons à transmettre vos propositions d’ici le lundi 20 mars en remplissant le formulaire suivant :

Les propositions de communications (500 mots) peuvent être rédigées en français ou en anglais, qui seront les deux langues des journées d’étude. Si vous n’êtes pas en mesure de venir à Dijon pour participer à la conférence, des propositions de communication à distance peuvent être envisagées.

Organisation : Caroline Angleraux (IHPST), Lucie Fabry (uB), Ivan Moya Diez (U. Alberto Hurtado), Matteo Vagelli (U. Ca’Foscari). Contact :

Présentation du réseau de recherche

Ces journées d’étude constituent la 8e édition des journées annuelles du Réseau de recherche international sur l’histoire et les méthodes de l’épistémologie historique. Ce réseau fondé en 2015 réunit aujourd’hui 80 membres de différents pays, dont les travaux sont liés à l’épistémologie historique prise en un sens large. Il accueille ainsi des spécialistes de l’épistémologie française du xxe siècle aussi bien que des personnes qui ont contribué au renouveau de l’épistémologie historique sous l’impulsion de membres de l’Institut Max Planck en histoire des sciences. L’objectif des activités de ce réseau est moins de chercher à délimiter le pré carré de l’épistémologie historique en la distinguant radicalement d’autres études des sciences, que de créer un espace de dialogue pour différentes interrogations philosophiques sur l’histoire des savoirs qui ont pour point commun de porter une attention particulière aux conditions d’émergence des disciplines scientifiques et de leurs objets.

Chaque édition des Journées est centrée sur un thème spécifique. L’édition de 2023 succèdera ainsi à celle que nous avons consacrée à la relation entre les arts et les sciences, « Arts and Sciences, Historicizing Boundaries » (2022), qui a eu lieu à l’Université Ca’ Foscari de Venise. Les éditions des années antérieures, qui ont eu lieu à l’Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, portaient quant à elle sur les thèmes suivants : « Épistémologie historique et épistémologie de l’histoire » (2020), « La philosophie des sciences du vivant : biologie et médecine au prisme de l’épistémologie historique » (2019), « L’épistémologie historique et les désunités des sciences » (2018), « Pour une épistémologie historique des transformations techniques » (2017), « Une histoire du présent » (2016) ; « Épistémologie historique : commencements et enjeux actuels » (2015)[1].

Le thème de l’édition 2023 : l’épistémologie historique des sciences de l’environnement

Cet appel à contributions est ouvert à toutes et à tous, y compris et particulièrement aux personnes qui ne sont pas encore membres du réseau de recherche. Le thème de l’année 2023 sera l’épistémologie historique des sciences de l’environnement. Nous mettons en avant trois axes pour les réflexions, tout en accueillant avec intérêt les propositions qui ne s’inscrivent pas dans ces axes, si elles restent proches du thème de cette année.

Axe 1 : Place des sciences de l’environnement et de l’écologie dans les textes fondateurs de l’épistémologie historique

Le premier axe invite à se demander comment les sciences de l’environnement et les questions écologiques ont été appréhendées par les auteurs de l’épistémologie historique, ou comment ces auteurs pourraient être mobilisés dans l’étude de ces questions et de ces disciplines. On pourra ainsi étudier, par exemple, la conférence de Canguilhem « Qu’est-ce que l’écologie ? » (1974) et interroger la rupture ou la continuité qu’elle représente par rapport à ses travaux en histoire et philosophie de la biologie et de la médecine (Larrère 2011; Espinoza Lolas, Moya Diez, et Vilches Vilches 2018). Ces journées pourront également prolonger les travaux qui se sont demandés dans quelle mesure la conception foucaldienne de la biopolitique peut nourrir une réflexion écologique (Gesu 2022; Angelini 2021; Taylan 2013). On pourra encore interroger la place que les questions écologiques ont occupée dans l’œuvre de François Dagognet (Dagognet 1973; 1997; 2000; Bensaude Vincent, Braunstein, et Gayon 2019).

L’étude des travaux de ces auteurs et de leurs contemporains pourra notamment être structurée par les questions suivantes : les efforts pour penser les questions écologiques conduisent-ils à modifier la posture ou les thèses des épistémologues, la manière dont ils ou elles appréhendent la connaissance scientifique ? Peut-on identifier des impasses dans lesquelles les épistémologues se seraient trouvés lorsqu’ils ou elles ont souhaité se tourner vers l’étude de questions écologiques ? Et peut-on identifier, inversement, des ressources propres à l’épistémologie dans l’étude des questions écologiques ? Quel est l’apport de l’épistémologie historique dans l’étude du statut de scientificité de l’écologie? 

Axe 2 : Une archéologie des sciences de l’environnement

Le deuxième axe proposé pour ces journées d’étude consiste à se demander, en des termes foucaldiens, quelles ont été les conditions d’émergence d’une formation discursive qui prenne l’environnement comme objet, ce qu’on pourrait appeler une épistémè des sciences environnementales. L’écologie est absente des Mots et les choses (1966), ce qui est peut-être un indice du fait que c’est seulement à partir du début des années 1970 que les questions environnementales sont pleinement devenues des objets de discours politiques et scientifiques. Il semble cependant possible d’interroger, dans une discussion et un prolongement des Mots et les choses, les conditions de la formation d’une épistémè environnementale, en se demandant par exemple quelles sont les conditions d’émergence du concept d’environnement et en quoi son étude diffère, par exemple, de l’étude biologique ou de l’étude géographique des milieux (Feuerhahn 2009; 2022; Macherey 2016).

Il s’agirait ainsi d’étudier les reconfigurations de l’espace des savoirs qu’impliquent les questions écologiques, et de discerner les facteurs qui ont contribué à ces évolutions épistémiques, en interrogeant notamment les relations entre l’histoire des disciplines scientifiques, l’histoire du capitalisme et l’histoire de l’écologie politique. On pourra également demander si cette épistèmè des sciences environnementales est véritablement advenue, c’est-à-dire si nous disposons effectivement des outils qui nous permettent de prendre la mesure des dégradations environnementales d’origine anthropique et de trouver les moyens d’y remédier, ou si nos manières d’agir et de penser, notre organisation économique et sociale et nos formes de gouvernement entravent l’émergence d’une telle épistèmè qui semble pourtant requise par la situation actuelle.

Nous accueillerons avec intérêt les propositions qui développeront, dans cette perspective, une approche d’épistémologie comparative, en interrogeant les relations entre les différentes disciplines qui prennent l’environnement pour objet. On se demandera, en particulier, si les relations entre les sciences de la nature et les sciences humaines ont été modifiées par la volonté d’appréhender des phénomènes comme les dérèglements climatiques d’origine anthropique, et de quelle manière (Jollivet 2013). On se demandera ainsi dans quelle mesure la thèse selon laquelle la division entre nature et culture est dépassée ou doit être dépassée s’est effectivement traduite par des évolutions réelles des pratiques scientifiques, ou si la spécialisation des savoirs doit être considéré comme un obstacle dans l’élaboration de telles réflexions. On soulèvera la question de savoir si l’épistémologie historique peut contribuer à faciliter l’émergence d’études pluridisciplinaires de l’environnement.

Axe 3 : Bruno Latour en discussion

Une demi-journée de notre rencontre sera consacrée à Bruno Latour, décédé en octobre 2022. Le thème de ces journées nous conduira à mettre en avant deux questions dans l’étude de son œuvre. D’abord, celle des relations de Bruno Latour à l’épistémologie historique. Alors que Latour et Woolgar (1979) avaient mobilisé la notion bachelardienne de phénoménotechnique dans Laboratory Life, Latour a formulé à partir des années 1980 une critique de plus en plus sévère de l’épistémologie bachelardienne. En se présentant comme un des importateurs des méthodes de la Sociology of Scientific Knowledge, il voyait en ces dernières une manière de surmonter ce qui lui apparaissait comme des apories de l’histoire et la philosophie des sciences à la française, marquées par le rationalisme bachelardien (Bowker et Latour 1987). L’étude de ces thèses de Bruno Latour et de leur réception fournira ainsi l’occasion d’interroger les rapports entre l’épistémologie historique et la sociologie des sciences.

La deuxième question que nous mettrons au centre de cette étude de l’œuvre de Bruno Latour sera celle de sa contribution à l’étude des questions écologiques : on pourra par exemple interroger dans cette perspective la manière dont la théorie de l’acteur-réseau fournit de nouveaux outils pour appréhender les rapports des humains avec le non-humain (Akrich et al. 2006), ou la manière dont son anthropologie des modernes interroge les conditions d’émergence et les présupposés de la distinction entre nature et culture (Latour 1991). Mais on pourra également se tourner vers des textes qui sont plus directement consacrés à des questions d’écologie politique (Latour 1999), en formulant un appel à devenir pleinement terriens ou terrestres (Latour 2015; 2017; 2021; Aït-Touati et al. 2021).

Ces journées seront également l’occasion d’une présentation du fonds déposé par Bruno Latour aux archives municipales de Beaune, composé de plus de 12 000 documents qui couvrent l’ensemble de sa carrière et comprennent des pièces essentielles à la compréhension de son œuvre, comme les carnets de notes de ses enquêtes ethnographiques. L’archiviste en charge du fonds, Émilie Rouilly, viendra présenter celui-ci, et ces journées constitueront ainsi une occasion de faire émerger des projets de valorisation, en dialogue avec les membres du LIR3S (UMR 7366) et de la MSH de Dijon.

Photo  : Jakub Pabis sur Unsplash

8th workshop on historical epistemology

The historical epistemology of environmental sciences

University of Burgundy, June 8 and 9, 2023, Amphitheater of the MSH, Dijon

Submissions by March 20 on

Paper proposals (500 words) can be written in French or English, the two languages of the conference. If you are unable to come to Dijon to participate in the conference, you may submit a proposal for a virtual session delivered online.

Presentation of the research network

This Workshop is the 8th edition of the annual meeting of the International Research Network on the History and Methods of Historical Epistemology. This network, founded in 2015, currently brings together 80 members from different countries, whose work is related to historical epistemology in a broad sense. It thus welcomes specialists in French epistemology of the 20th century as well as people who have contributed to the renewal of historical epistemology under the impulse of members of the Max Planck Institute for the history of science. The objective of the activities of this network is not so much to separate historical epistemology radically from other studies of science, but rather to create a dialogue between different philosophical studies on the history of knowledge that pay particular attention to the conditions of emergence of scientific disciplines and their objects.

Each edition of the Workshop focuses on a specific theme. The previous edition was dedicated to the relationship between arts and sciences, “Arts and Sciences, Historicizing Boundaries” (2022) and took place at Ca’ Foscari University in Venice. The former ones, which took place at the University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, focused on the following themes: “Historical Epistemology and Epistemology of History” (2020), “The Philosophy of Life Sciences: biologie et médecine au prisme de l’épistémologie historique” (2019), “Historical epistemology and the disunity of science” (2018), “For an historical epistemology of technological transformations” (2017), “A history of the present” (2016); “Historical epistemology: beginnings and current issues” (2015)[2] .

The theme of the 2023 edition: the historical epistemology of environmental sciences

This call for papers is open to all, including and especially to people who are not yet members of the research network. The theme of the year 2023 will be the historical epistemology of environmental sciences. We put forward three axes for the study of this theme, while welcoming proposals that do not fit into these axes, provided that they dwell on the history and philosophy of ecology and environmental sciences.

Axis 1: The place of environmental sciences and ecology in the founding texts of historical epistemology

The first axis studies how the environmental sciences and ecological questions have been apprehended by the authors of historical epistemology, or how the works of these authors could be used in the study of these questions and these disciplines. For example, one might study Canguilhem’s lecture “What is Ecology?” (1974) and question the rupture or continuity that it represents in relation to his work in the history and philosophy of biology and medicine (Larrère 2011; Espinoza Lolas, Moya Diez, and Vilches Vilches 2018). One could also question the extent to which the Foucaultian conception of biopolitics can nourish ecological thinking (Gesu 2022; Angelini 2021; Taylan 2013), or the place that ecological questions have occupied in the work of François Dagognet (Dagognet 1973; 1997; 2000; Bensaude Vincent, Braunstein, and Gayon 2019).

The study of the work of these authors and their contemporaries could be structured by the following questions: do efforts to think about ecological issues lead epistemologists to change their methods or of the way they apprehend scientific knowledge? Can we identify dead ends in which epistemologists have found themselves when they wanted to turn to the study of ecological issues? And can we identify, conversely, resources specific to epistemology in the study of ecological issues?

Axis 2: An archaeology of environmental sciences

The second axis proposed for this workshop consists in asking, in Foucaultian terms, what were the conditions for the emergence of a discursive formation that takes the environment as an object – something that we could call an episteme of environmental sciences. Ecology is absent from The Order of Things (1966), which is perhaps an indication of the fact that it is only from the beginning of the 1970s that environmental issues fully became objects of political and scientific discourse. However, it seems possible to question, in a discussion and extension of The Order of Things, the conditions of the formation of an environmental episteme, by asking, for example, what are the conditions of the emergence of the concept of environment and in what way its study differs, for example, from the biological study or the geographical study of milieux (Feuerhahn 2009; 2022; Macherey 2016).

This axis would study the reconfigurations of knowledge implied by ecological questions, and discern the factors that have contributed to these epistemic evolutions, by questioning in particular the relations between the history of scientific disciplines, the history of capitalism and the history of political ecology. We may also ask whether this episteme of environmental sciences already exists, that is to say whether we actually have the tools that allow us to take the measure of anthropogenic environmental degradation and to find the means to remedy it, or whether our ways of acting and thinking, our economic and social organization, and our forms of government hinder the emergence of such an episteme.

In that respect, this axis particularly welcomes proposals which develop an approach of comparative epistemology, by questioning the relations between the various disciplines that take the environment as their object. One could ask whether the relations between the natural sciences and the humanities have been modified by the desire to understand phenomena such as anthropogenic climate change, and in what way (Jollivet 2013). One could also wonder to what extent the thesis that the division between nature and culture has been overcome or must be overcome has actually led to real changes in scientific practices, or whether the specialization of knowledge should be considered as an obstacle in the development of such reflections. The question could be raised as to whether an “archaeological approach” can contribute to the emergence of multidisciplinary studies of the environment.

Axis 3: Bruno Latour in discussion

Half a day of our meeting will be devoted to Bruno Latour, who passed away in October 2022. The theme of the workshop will lead us to put forward two questions in the study of his work. First, the relationship of Bruno Latour to historical epistemology. While Latour and Woolgar (1979) had used the Bachelardian notion of phenomenotechnique in Laboratory Life, Latour formulated from the 1980s onwards a severe critique of Bachelardian epistemology. By presenting himself as among those who introduced the methods of the Sociology of Scientific Knowledge in France, he presented this latter as a way of overcoming what appeared to him to be the aporias of French history and philosophy of science, marked by Bachelardian rationalism (Bowker and Latour 1987). The study of these theses of Bruno Latour and their reception will provide the opportunity to question the relationship between historical epistemology and the sociology of science.

The second question that we will put at the center of this study of Bruno Latour’s work will be that of his contribution to the study of ecological questions: one could study, for instance, the way in which the actor-network theory provides new tools for apprehending the relations between humans and non-humans (Akrich et al. 2006) or the way in which his anthropology of the Moderns questions the conditions of emergence of the distinction between nature and culture (Latour 1991). But one can also turn to texts that are more directly devoted to questions of political ecology (Latour 1999), where Bruno Latour enjoined humans to become fully terrestrial (Latour 2015; 2017; 2021; Aït-Touati et al. 2021).

This year’s gathering will also be the occasion for a presentation of the fonds deposited by Bruno Latour at the Beaune municipal archives, composed of more than 12,000 documents that cover his entire career and include pieces that are essential to the understanding of his work, such as the notebooks of his ethnographic investigations. The archivist in charge of the collection, Émilie Rouilly, will present the funds, and the workshop will provide an opportunity to develop research projects on this archival material, in dialogue with the members of the LIR3S laboratory and the MSH of Dijon.

Liste des œuvres citées / References

Aït-Touati, Frédérique, Emanuele Coccia, Sébastien Dutreuil, John Tresch, Baptiste Morizot, Nastassja Martin, Vinciane Despret, Stéphane Van Damme, Déborah Bucchi, et Patrice Maniglier. 2021. Le cri de Gaïa : penser la terre avec Bruno Latour. Paris, France: les Empêcheurs de penser en rond – Éditions la Découverte.

Akrich, Madeleine, Michel Callon, Bruno Latour, et Centre de sociologie de l’innovation. 2006. Sociologie de la traduction : textes fondateurs. Paris, France: Mines Paris, les Presses.

Angelini, Andrea. 2021. Biopolitica ed ecologia : l’epistemologia politica del discorso biologico tra Michel Foucault e Georges Canguilhem. Firenze University Press.

Bensaude Vincent, Bernadette, Jean-François Braunstein, et Jean Gayon. 2019. François Dagognet : philosophe, épistémologue. Sciences & philosophie. Paris: Éditions Matériologiques.–9782373611946-page-255.htm.

Bowker, Geof, et Bruno Latour. 1987. « A Booming Discipline Short of Discipline: (Social) Studies of Science in France ». Social Studies of Science 17 (4): 715‑48.

Canguilhem, Georges. 1974. « La question de l’écologie. La technique ou la vie ». Dialogue, mars, 37‑44.

Dagognet, François. 1973. Des révolutions vertes : histoire et principes de l’agronomie. Paris, France: Hermann.

———. 1997. Des détritus, des déchets, de l’abject :  une philosophie écologique. Les empêcheurs de penser en rond. Le Plessis-Robinson: Institut Synthélabo.

———. 2000. Considérations sur l’idée de nature. 2e éd. rev. et augm. Pour demain. Paris: J. Vrin.

Espinoza Lolas, Ricardo, Iván Moya Diez, et Daniel Vilches Vilches. 2018. « On Technology And Life: Fundamental Concepts Of Georges Caguilhem And Xavier Zubiri’s Thought ». Ideas y Valores 67 (167): 127‑47.

Feuerhahn, Wolf. 2009. « From environment to Umwelt: The stakes of a change in terminology ». Revue philosophique de la France et de l’étranger 134 (4): 419‑38.

———. 2022. « Les catégories de l’entendement écologique : milieu, Umwelt, environment, nature… ». In Humanités environnementales : Enquêtes et contre-enquêtes, édité par Guillaume Blanc et Élise Demeulenaere, 19‑41. Homme et société. Paris: Éditions de la Sorbonne.

Gesu, Andrea Di. 2022. « Foucault entre Wuhan et l’Anthropocène ». Terrestres (blog). 12 juillet 2022.

Jollivet, Marcel. 2013. Sciences de la nature, sciences de la société : les passeurs de frontières. Hors collection. Paris: CNRS Éditions.

Larrère, Catherine. 2011. « La question de l’écologie. Ou la querelle des naturalismes ». Cahiers philosophiques 127 (4): 63‑79.

Latour, Bruno. 1991. Nous n’avons jamais été modernes : essai d’anthropologie symétrique. Paris, France: La Découverte, 1991.

———. 1999. Politiques de la nature : comment faire entrer les sciences en démocratie. Paris: Éditions la Découverte.

———. 2015. Face à Gaïa : huit conférences sur le nouveau régime climatique. Paris, France: La Découverte.

———. 2017. Où atterrir ? Comment s’orienter en politique. Paris, France: la Découverte.

———. 2021. Où suis-je ? Leçons du confinement à l’usage des terrestres. Paris, France: Editions la Découverte.

Latour, Bruno, et Steve Woolgar. 1979. Laboratory Life: the Construction of Scientific Facts. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press.

Macherey, Pierre. 2016. « Canguilhem et l’idée de milieu ». Billet. La philosophie au sens large (blog). 2016.

Taylan, Ferhat. 2013. « L’interventionnisme environnemental, une stratégie néolibérale ». Raisons politiques 52 (4): 77‑87.

Avec le soutien de / with the support of :

IHPST (UMR 8590)
LIR3S (UMR 7366)
Universidad Alberto Hurtado
Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia
European Commission
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 101030646, “EPISTYLE”

[1] On trouvera les programmes et argumentaires des éditions précédentes sur

[2] The programs and arguments of the previous editions can be found at

Styles in the Arts and in the Sciences (online seminar)

Fall 2022-Winter 2023 – Online Seminar

Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia – Department of Philosophy and Cultural Heritage

European Commission – This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 101030646, “EPISTYLE”

Organizer: Matteo Vagelli (Ca’ Foscari/Harvard)

Link zoom:

Further information:



OCTOBER 17, 2022

17.30h CET – 16.30h GMT – 11.30 GMT-5

Isabelle Kalinowski, ENS Paris

Gottfried Semper: Style and the Thickness of Time


OCTOBER 24, 2022

17.30h CET – 16.30h GMT – 11.30 GMT-5

Rémi Mermet, ENS Paris

Beyond Formalism: Heinrich Wölfflin’s Concept of Style


OCTOBER 31, 2022

17.30h CET – 16.30h GMT – 11.30 GMT-5

Andrea Pinotti, Università degli Studi di Milano

Style in Art and Style in perception: a Problematic Correlation


JANUARY 24, 2023

17.30h CET – 16.30h GMT – 11.30 GMT-5

Frédéric Fruteau de Laclos, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne

Existentialisme de la connaissance et stylistique de l’idéation


FEBRUARY 6, 2023

17.30h CET – 16.30h GMT – 11.30 GMT-5

Mari Hvattum, Oslo School of Architecture and Design

Style and Solitude. The History of an Architectural Problem


FEBRUARY 13, 2023

17.30h CET – 16.30h GMT – 11.30 GMT-5

Eva Geulen, ZfL Berlin

Why Style Now?

Matteo Vagelli, PhD

Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow (Ca’ Foscari University of Venice/Harvard University)

Arts and Sciences, Historicizing Boundaries. 7th International Workshop on Historical Epistemology (Ca’ Foscari, 9-10 June)

Arts and Sciences, Historicizing Boundaries
7th International Workshop on Historical Epistemology

Thursday 9- Friday 10 June

Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia (Aula Baratto – Dorsoduro 3246 – 30123 VE – Second floor)


Registration is mandatory


Further information:

Thursday JUNE 9, 2022

10:30 Welcome & Introduction Marco Sgarbi, Ca’ Foscari

Chair Roberta Dreon, Ca’ Foscari

Polemics and epistemes: symbiontics in contemporary bio-arts

Chair Eleonora Montuschi, Ca’ Foscari

14:00 Francesco Nappo, Politecnico di Milano
How Maxwell discovered the Maxwell equations

14:40 Stefano Furlan, MPIWG Berlin/Université de Genève
The smile of mnemosyne: John Wheeler between history of science and arts

15:20 Ladislav Kvasz, Institute of philosophy of the Czech Academy of Sciences in Prague
On epistemological reconstruction of the development of the concept of space in geometry and in painting

Cultural politics of historical epistemology

17:20 PETER GALISON, Harvard University
Wastewilderness: nuclear lands

Friday JUNE 10, 2022

Chair Matteo Vagelli, Ca’ Foscari/Harvard University

9:30 Gwenda-lin Grewal, New School for Social Research
Fashion and academic divisiveness

10:10 Maria Teresa Costa, MPIWG Berlin
A transcultural history of art history from the 19th century and beyond. Art and science in a dialogue

11:20 Lucie Fabry, AMU/CGGG
Is there a science of interpretation? Sociology of art and epistemology of social sciences in the work of Jean-Claude Passeron

Chair Caroline Angleraux, Labex Who am I?/IHPST

14:00 Matteo Vagelli, Ca’ Foscari/Harvard University
Theories of “scientific styles” across the arts/sciences divide

14:40 Daniel Rodriguez-Navas, New School for Social Research
Art and science, method and style: the function of the concept of style in French historical epistemology

15:20 Rémi Mermet, Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne
Between art and science: Ernst Cassirer’s concept of style

16:20 Agnese Ghezzi, IMT School for Advanced Studies Lucca
The entangled histories of anthropology and photography, between art and science

17:00 ELENA CANADELLI, Università degli Studi di Padova
Art, science, and nature: museums as entangled spaces

This workshop is organized by:

Épistémologie Historique. Research Network on the History and the Methods of Historical Epistemology

With the support of

Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, Department of Philosophy and Cultural Heritage;
European Commission (This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 101030646, “EPISTYLE”);
IHPST (UMR 8590, Paris 1/CNRS);
Centre Gilles Gaston Granger (UMR 7304);

Center for Renaissance and Early Modern Thought (CREMT).

Organizing committee

Matteo Vagelli (Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia/Harvard University);
Caroline Angleraux (Labex Who Am I?/IHPST);
Lucie Fabry (Aix Marseille Université, Centre Gilles-Gaston Granger);
Iván Moya-Diez (Universidad Alberto Hurtado);
Thomas Embleton (IHPST).


Art, Science, and Nature: Museums as Entangled Spaces

Elena Canadelli, Università degli Studi di Padova

Natural history museums and science and technology museums are currently facing many challenges in terms of change of narratives and curatorial trends. Today, many Western scientific museums are wondering how to cope with their history and their historical collections, and how to rethink their identities and exhibitions, which are deeply rooted in the nineteenth-century ideas of science, nature, civilization, progress, production, and development–whether we like it or not. Exhibiting scientific objects traditionally means adopting a specific narrative and selection of artefacts not only in connection to scientific theories and ideas, but also to political or ideological agendas. This talk will show how complex and entangled are the narratives behind the public display of natural history and scientific artefacts in museums during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, selecting some European cases as relevant examples. Today, one of the ways in which scientific museums are changing their narratives is the introduction of contemporary art in their research projects and strategies of engaging different kinds of audiences. Thus, many contemporary artists are developing projects in collaboration with scientific museums worldwide, from the National Museum of Science and Technology Leonardo da Vinci in Milan to the Natural History Museum in Berlin. This presentation will explore this general topic, on the one hand addressing examples of recent collaborations between artists and scientific museums, and on the other hand focusing on some relevant moments of this collaboration in the history of this seminal Western institution.

A Transcultural History of Art History from the 19th Century and beyond. Art and Science in a Dialogue

Maria Teresa Costa, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (Berlin)

As art history emerged as scientific discipline in the second half of the 19th century, first in the German speaking context and then in other countries, two opposite tendencies were developing. On one side the connoisseurship, approaching the work of art in its singularity and studying its material and technical aspects with an attributionist aim, and following an evolutionary idea of art history. On the other side, different approaches were unified by the analysis of the work of art within its broader cultural context, in reconstructing its social, cultural and political dimensions, in the dialogue with other disciplines. Both groups wanted to legitimate their methodologies on a “scientific” basis, the first grounded on the direct observation of the work of art, the latter developing a series of general concepts (Grundbegriffe), valid for interpreting works coming from different cultural contexts. This second tendency, born in German speaking countries as “Kunstwissenschaft”, and later translated in France as “science de l’art”, emerged in taking distance exactly from the direct study of techniques and material aspects, working on a more abstract level and aiming to pinpoint affinities and similarities between artifacts. Alois Riegl’s Kunstwollen, Heinrich Wölfflin’s Formgefühl, Aby Warburg’s Pathosformel and Henri Focillon’s Vie des formes are only a few examples. In this paper, I want to discuss this methodological gap between different approaches to art history in the epoch in which it was more intensively aiming to build its disciplinary identity, and to follow its development in the actual art historical practice.

Is there a science of interpretation? Sociology of art and epistemology of social sciences in the work of Jean-Claude Passeron

Lucie Fabry, Aix-Marseille Université/Centre Gilles Gaston Granger

In Sociological reasoning (1st ed. 1991), Jean-Claude Passeron brings together chapters on the epistemology of the social sciences and chapters on the sociology of art and culture. I will question the relationships between these two dimensions of his work, going beyond the observation that Passeron is a sociologist with an interest in the epistemology of his discipline. I will show that these two dimensions of his work have in common that they grant a central role to the notion of interpretation: Passeron claims, in his epistemological work, that the social sciences are interpretative sciences, and his sociology analyses the interpretations of works of art. By comparing what Passeron writes, as a sociologist, on aesthetic interpretations as social practices, and what he writes, as an epistemologist, on interpretations as scientific practices, I will question of the relation between art and science, but also between epistemology and sociology of science. I will wonder, in particular, whether Passeron defines demarcation criteria between scientific and non-scientific interpretations, and in what sense these scientific norms may differ from the social norms of interpretation.

The Smile of Mnemosyne: John Wheeler between History of Science and Arts

Stefano Furlan, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (Berlin)

John A. Wheeler (1911-2008) is a leading figure of 20th-century physics, well-known even to a larger public for his evocative expressions such as “black hole” or “it from bit”. Much less-known – actually, almost entirely unexplored – is his active engagement with the arts and their history, as well as with the history of science. This paper intends to offer some insights on Wheeler’s related activities from the 1950s to the early 1960s. A first aspect concerns his reflections on a meta-level, viz. how he conceived his own physical researches within a historical dimension, what uses of the past he resorted to, which features had to be emphasized in the large historical projects he was starting to plan and organize (such as the famous “Sources for History of Quantum Physics”, then led by T. Kuhn, J.Heilbron and others). Interestingly enough, Wheeler was inspired by interviews that he happened to read in some art journals, where e.g. young writers were interviewing distinguished colleagues about their creative processes. Likewise, Wheeler intended to preserve the legacy of the founders of 20th-century physics not just by gathering documents or “factual” pieces of information, but having competent people interviewing them and trying to shed light on their heuristic strategies, inspirations, and so on. This methodological analogy clearly aimed at offering a different picture of physics and of its actors, a task particularly urgent after the recent appearance of an ambivalence towards its role in creating the terrifying weapons that appeared at the end of World War II. However, that was not simply a captivating move: in Wheeler’s mind it synergistically interacted with his very peculiar way (at least among recent physicists) of looking at the past. Far from considering history as obsolete material for dusty archives, Wheeler always tried to look for inspiration from past ideas or theories, either by analogy or by identifying some untapped potential still waiting to be disclosed. If, to outsiders, this may sound as a noble but impractical attitude in science, it is worth underlining that it was such an operation that led Wheeler to dust off first (early 1950s-early 1970s) Einstein’s legacy, and later Bohr’s. His renewed meditations on the work of his two great mentors did bear fruit: what nowadays appears as Wheeler’s most “futuristic” or “visionary” proposals, black holes and quantum information as a basis for everything, started as a fully aware, even methodological operation of polishing and disclosing the potentialities of past ideas. He had a similar attitude also when it came to pictures, that he largely employed both in his heuristics (as a visual thinker) and in the popularization of his researches. In this sense, he developed a quasi-Warburgian conception of pictures and of their powers, which saw him re-exhuming and re-functionalizing diagrams or illustrations from previous centuries. All these aspects can be seen in action, also thanks to the working notes that Wheeler dutifully kept for posterity and for future “historical epistemologists”, in the long, complex path that led him to become the godfather of black holes.

Wastewilderness: Nuclear Lands 

Peter Galison, Harvard University

As they are usually understood, the designations “nuclear wasteland” and “pure wilderness” are opposites poles.  When the two kinds of lands converge into nature reserves on the sites of decommissioned nuclear weapons lands, storage facilities, or accident sites, we often describe this circumstance as “paradoxical” or “ironic.”  Taking stock of plans to manage lands (and build monuments to warn the very distant future), I argue that the categories of wastelands and wilderness are far from antipodes; that their relation is more intriguing (and disturbing) than a binary of purity against corruption or civilization against chaos.  Indeed, the most radioactive site in the U.S. weapons complex is also, astonishingly, one of the most bio-diverse in North America, with similar developments across the world.  Removing parts of the earth in perpetuity —for reasons of sanctification or despoilment–alters a central feature of the human self, presenting us in a different relation to the physical world, and raising irreducible ethical questions about who we are when land can be classified, forever, as not for us humans.  Confronting such territories sets us where historical epistemology crosses with the ethics of how we cultivate our relation with the self, others, and the non-human, now and for the long term.

The entangled histories of anthropology and photography, between art and science

Agnese Ghezzi, IMT School for Advanced Studies Lucca

The history of anthropology offers an interesting vantage point to analyse the connections as well as the demarcations between the “two cultures”. Looking at the institutionalisation of the anthropological discipline in Italy during the second half of the nineteenth century, the paper aims to analyse the different scholarly discourses around what anthropology should be. Such arguments moved primarily on the divide between a cultural and scientific orientation of the discipline’s object and methodology (Pogliano 1993, Stocking 1996).
The formation of anthropology happened in a phase of delineation of the natural and the human sciences and the new community of anthropologists  – made of “zoologists and travellers, paleethnologists and physicians, psychiatrists and physiologists, philologists and historians” (Mantegazza 1901) – entered into that crack and developed within it. While some scholars saw anthropology as a “natural history of man” and promoted the application of a rigid scientific method, others privileged the attention to historical, cultural, or psychological data. I will, therefore, analyse how the new community mediated between these two poles, looking at the intersection with other disciplines and especially at the contact with ideas of art and science.
Firmly rooted in medical knowledge, anthropology was moving on the line between what Ginzburg called an anatomical/naturalist model and a conjectural/semiotic model (Ginzburg 1980). On the one hand, anthropologists desired a highly disciplined representation of human varieties and tried to build a ‘human atlas’ where the biological features resulted isolated and comparable. On the other, they looked for a less staged and more lively description, not focused on bodily features but on attitudes, traditions and habits, with the attempt to build a system of “comparative psychology” (Mantegazza, Giglioli and Letourneau 1873).
I will particularly analyse the methods that were proposed in regards to observation and visualisation, that emerged as crucial practices to address (Daston and Lunbeck 2011, Edwards 2016). Photography was soon promoted as a fundamental ally in the classification of human groups and handbooks referenced to the correct employ of such visual technique (Puccini 1998). Next to the need for a “scientific photography” that follows the anthropometric standard – in line with the paradigm of ‘mechanical objectivity’ (Daston and Galison 1992, 2007) – there was the need for an “artistic photography” able to capture the attitude and the character of the portrayed subjects (Zannetti and Giglioli 1874).
Therefore, the paper crosses the 19th-century debate on the definition of photography as a technique at the intersection between art and science with the discourses around anthropology as a discipline in between the humanistic and the scientific domain. It will consider how fin-de-siecle Italian anthropology invoked both artistic and scientific concepts and it will explore if and how photography shaped and influenced the method of the discipline itself and, vice versa, how that branch of knowledge regulated and systematised the use of photography (Caraffa et al. 2019). Looking inward to how the tools made the discipline, this paper identifies the various discourses associated with photography, exploring the influence visual materials exerted on scientific theory.

Fashion and Academic Divisiveness

Gwen Grewal, The New School for Social Research

“Fashion” seems to be neither an art nor a science. At its most narrow, it might be argued to belong to the third culture of the “social sciences”; at its broadest, it might be cast as equivalent to the mode or style in which every art, science, or social science must participate by default. Yet the scorn fashion receives from the so-called arts and the indifference it receives from the so-called sciences suggest an interesting critique of their division.
In Anachronic Renaissance, Christopher Wood and Alexander Nagel have argued that the arrival of art history in the late medieval or early Renaissance period is simultaneous to the inclusion of fashion in art. During that period, a secular vision of art appears in which fashion is integral, for fashion seems to rear its head alongside a cultural awareness of time and in contrast to timeless iconography. Nagel and Wood’s view is one shared by fashion historians and philosophers alike. For example, in her recent book Social Appearances, Barbara Carnevali attributes fashion’s modernity to the expression of “individuality and originality” in clothing; while in Seeing Through Clothes, Anne Hollander distinguishes fashionable modernity from its fashionless past by the presence of “significant distortion and creative tailoring.”
I offer two points of criticism to these views: 1) Fashion is not modern. It may be as ancient as that old quarrel Plato speaks of in the Republic between philosophy and poetry—a quarrel that could easily be extended to the 20th century division between hard and soft intellectual modes. 2) Attributing any beginning to fashion is as impossible as positing a beginning for thinking. Yet the advantage to historicizing fashion may be summarized thus:  if there were to be a time before we wore time’s baggage on our persons—a time when our being in the world was stripped or at least unaware of its mode—we might be able to imagine a future in which epistemology could be, uncluttered by individual flair.
Fashion’s association with fluffy femininity is the specter of the perception of the “arts” in its most ill-starred form, and the widening gap between the arts and the sciences is traceable to that same longing to expiate ourselves of fashion’s influence. But, as Rousseau remarks in the First Discourse, the arts and sciences both amp up their specialized jargon to conceal ignorance; this enervates big questions in favor of small distinctions. The divisions in academia, ever finer, ever more querulous, display an “achievement” whose price is a removal from the indivisible world that inspired its inquiry. Within itself it becomes further removed from itself. Rousseau seems to have anticipated the lack of communication between literary intellectuals and scientists that C.P. Snow described. Travel between the two cultures becomes impossible, when the question of mode—of fashion—has been forgotten. The sidelining of fashion, understood both as a “lesser art” that deals with clothing and as way or manner, is not only a symptom of the division between the arts and sciences, but also an unsuspected route through which one might assess its current appearance.

Polemics and Epistemes:Symbiontics in Contemporary Bio-Arts

Caroline A. Jones, MIT

Can polemics shift epistemes? The artworld operates on this utopian premise. A century of symbiosis theory has quietly or explicitly challenged “Darwin’s bulldogs” and neo-Darwinism. Yet scientists working today on symbiosis in life systems still operate culturally within an episteme of Darwinian evolutionary theory and domestication metaphors: “harnessing” metabolisms by “cheaters” or “altruists,” the parasite and its host. Artists are crafting a frontal attack on the Darwinian episteme, informing an urgent polemic I dub “Symbiontics.”  This presentation will explore the collaborations between artists and science (if not scientists) that allow us to explore this portmanteau, which takes technical philosophy’s term “ontic” and adds it to symbiosis to support the claim that symbiosis is that-which-is. Indebted to the wordplay of biologists themselves (Ivan Wallin, Scott Gilbert) and cultural theorists (Beth Demster, Donna Haraway) “symbiontics” plies its craft literally in artworks that sprout mycelial blooms, plasmodium patterns, or HeLa cell patterns. The endosymbiotic and serial endosymbiosis theories of evolution that biologist Lynn Margulis put forward in the late ‘60s are now gaining impact in the shifting cultural frame of the contemporary art world. Their uptake by the visual arts will be discussed via a range of contemporary art works that attempt to sense the message of evolution: all creatures live on a microbial planet and do best when they proliferate genomic flexibility and welcome symbiotic partners. Survival favors the most interdependent.
As curator of the forthcoming exhibition Symbionts, I will argue that a new demographic of contemporary artists questions the “code dominance” of 2000.  Two decades into the new millennium, we might be able to resonate with the fact that our cells are cooperative amalgams of aerobic single-celled organisms merging into other archaeobacteria, that multicellular bodies carry around a swarm of bacteria that chemically modulate our moods, digest our food, and provide a constant stream of information to our immune system. Building on Margulis’s hunch that our sensory cells themselves derive from ancient partnerships formed with spirochetic bacteria, I ask after the (un)conscious wriggling chemical and electromagnetic sensitivities that give us our haptic, auditory, olfactory, and retinal access to the world — a strange universe of epistemic possibilities that entails using our equally strange tools of art (Noë) and entanglements (Barad) to open ourselves to the resonant frequencies of ancient collaborators within. I argue for a polemical shift in a dominant scientific episteme, following art toward a being-with our symbionts, calling upon viscera to confirm our interspecies dependence.

On Epistemological Reconstruction of the Development of the Concept of Space in Geometry and in Painting

Ladislav Kvasz, Institute of philosophy of the Czech Academy of Sciences (Prague)

In Ancient Greek mathematics we cannot find any systematic study of the concept of space. If we take Euclid, Archimedes or Apollonius, we see them study different geometrical objects, but never any study of space. It seems, that the notion of space entered mathematics after Renaissance from painting. After space was reified in geometry (i.e. turned into an object of study) by Desargues, an interesting and intricate development of the notion of space started. In my book Patterns of Change (Kvasz 2008, pp. 111 – 159) I proposed an epistemological reconstruction of the development of the notion of space in geometry using Wittgenstein´s picture theory of meaning.

The main idea of this approach is to apply Wittgenstein´s picture theory of meaning to pictures contained in groundbreaking text on geometry. It turns out, that the most natural way to reconstruct the development of geometric space from an epistemological point of view is to reconstruct it as the development of the pictorial form of the particular mathematical texts. According to Wittgenstein the pictorial form is the way how aspects of a (linguistic) representation are related to the world they represent. It is possible to discriminate several pictorial forms, i.e. different ways of how geometers organize the systems of lines, that constitute their pictures, into a geometric representation. It turns out, that the main breakthroughs in the development of geometry were accompanied with changes of the pictorial form.

Maybe even more interesting feature of the present approach is, that very similar innovations, than those used by Desargues, Lobachevski, Klein or Poincaré in geometry, were used by painters like Albrecht Dürer, Andrea Pozzo, Diego Velázquez, Claude Monet, Paul Cézanne or George Braque. In the paper I will introduce the concept of pictorial form of a representation, distinguish four different pictorial forms in the history of geometry and show paintings which use analogous pictorial forms.

This shows, that at least in the area of visual representation the boundaries between geometry and painting are blurred. The analysis indicates, that there is a fundamental level of understanding our spatial experience, that unites science with art.


Kvasz, Ladislav: Patterns of Change. Linguistic Innovations in the Development of Classical Mathematics. Birkhäuser, Basel 2008.

Between Art and Science: Ernst Cassirer’s Concept of Style

Remi Mermet, Centre d’histoire des philosophies modernes de la Sorbonne

In the Logic of the Cultural Sciences (1942), German philosopher and epistemologist Ernst Cassirer (1874-1945) used the concept of style (Stilbegriff) to legitimize the scientific nature of art history and, more generally, of the human sciences, but also to distinguish them (after Wilhelm Dilthey and Heinrich Rickert) from the natural sciences. According to him, style is indeed a formal or structural concept that prevents the Kunst- or Kulturwissenschaftler from falling into the triple pitfall of naturalism, historicism and psychologism, thus allowing them to develop a methodology that is irreducible to causality, i.e. to the methodology that is typical of the sciences of nature.

Yet, 20 years earlier, in “The Concept of Symbolic Form in the Construction of the Human Sciences” (1923), Cassirer had already borrowed Goethe’s concept of style to describe not the cultural sciences, but the natural sciences of his time, and more particularly Albert Einstein’s physics, which, he admitted, is not exclusively causal in nature, since it also uses formal or structural categories. In so doing, Cassirer did not seek to blur the differences between the sciences of nature and the sciences of culture. Rather, he tried to demonstrate that, if there indeed is a “science of art” (Kunstwissenschaft) that can produce some knowledge about artistic phenomena, there also exists what could be called an “art of science”, in that, as Goethe himself suggested, science as a whole is a symbolic process through which humanity shapes (and not simply imitates or explains a pre-given) reality.

This exemplarity of art for science raises the question of the very nature of the concept of style in Ernst Cassirer’s philosophy. Is it only meant to be an epistemological concept used to characterize a certain mode of scientific practice? Or is it meant to define, in a more profound way, symbolism as such? Drawing upon the Metaphysics of Symbolic Forms, I will show that for Cassirer, style is neither an “alter ego” of the symbolic form (Naumann), nor a conceptual tool limited to the analysis of artistic forms (Lauschke). It instead designates the specific manner in which the symbolic function of the human mind actually takes shape and diversifies throughout history. That is why Cassirer’s concept of style could be understood as a symbolism in action or in progress, i.e. as a historicized version of Goethe’s maxim, according to which “the particular is the general made manifest under different conditions.”

How Maxwell Discovered the Maxwell Equations

Francesco Nappo, Department of Mathematics, Politecnico di Milano

The official story – the one still taught in many university-level physics courses – of how J. C. Maxwell arrived at the Maxwell equations goes roughly as follows. Having collected the main experimental laws of the electromagnetic science of his time, namely Gauss’ law for electricity, Gauss’ law for magnetism, Faraday’s law for electrical induction, and Ampère’s law for electromagnetism, Maxwell noticed that they jointly violated the principle of conservation of charge. For this reason, and possibly motivated by a love for symmetries, he decided to add an additional term to the equations – the ‘displacement current’, understood as a rate of change of an electric field over time. By means of this bold postulation (which further experiments surprisingly confirmed), the principle of conservation of charge got restored.

As a matter of historical fact, things went very differently. In the first part of the presentation, I will sketch the main elements of Maxwell’s monumental scientific creation. It involved re-imagining electromagnetic forces in the mathematically more familiar terms of fluids flowing in tubes of variable section, exploiting analogies with hydrodynamics. Subsequently, Maxwell introduced an imaginary substratum of the electromagnetic forces consistent with the fluid model, exploiting an analogy with a mechanical system of molecular vortices. The introduction of the displacement current resulted from Maxwell’s insight that the system would need to be elastic in order to account for the phenomena of electrostatic charge and induction.

In the second part of the presentation, I will discuss some interesting similarities and differences of Maxwell’s scientific creation with artistic creation. Special attention will be paid to the description of Maxwell’s work as an exercise of a ‘constrained’ form of freedom. In this context, a connection will be drawn with the philosophical reflections of John Dewey and Benedetto Croce concerning the aesthetic aspects of scientific investigation and the thesis of the ‘primacy of the aesthetic’. The idea that the scientific investigator is, in the course of doing his or her research, aesthetically engaged sets the stage for a historically well-informed discussion of the aesthetics of science – the (severely underexplored) discipline concerned with the ‘intuitive’ and ‘non-conceptual’ elements inherent to the scientific practices of knowledge-production.

Cultural Politics of Historical Epistemology

Pietro Daniel Omodeo, Ca’ Foscari University of Venice

This communication addresses the political question of historical epistemology, at three levels. As I consider historical epistemology to be an inquiry into the genesis, validity and goals of knowledge (especially, scientific knowledge) and politics as the realm of collective agency, the political question  of historical epistemology especially concerns the collective character of the goals that inform science. First, the political question relates to the function of science at the level of ideas, that is, as ideology. In this respect, science can be understood as a historically given intellectual means to justify and guide collective decisions by acting at a psychological and, as it were, a spiritual level. Secondly, science as a force of transformation also acts as a material means of change of nature and of society. This second level is directly connected with the Baconian nexus of knowledge and domination, but re-read through praxeological lenses as a problem of objective change of environmental conditions. Thirdly, at the meta-level, historical epistemology as a specific path to knowledge theory reverses abstract conceptions of science and nature as they were both given in absolute terms. By contrast, it investigates the concrete conditions for the emergence, development and directness of all knowledge. In this sense, historical epistemology can be seen as the knowledge theory of historical materialism. It favours a critical but not skeptical attitude toward science and its potential. In this perspective, historical epistemology is a matter of cultural politics.

Art and Science, Method and Style: The Function of the Concept of Style in French Historical Epistemology

Daniel Rodriguez-Navas, The New School for Social Research

The goal of this presentation is to elucidate the relationship between two pairs of concepts: the concepts of method and style within French historical epistemology (FHE), and the concepts of scientific and of artistic style.

After an introductory discussion of the idea of FHE, understood, through the Wittgenstenian model of family resemblance, as a family of views about and ways of engaging in the history and philosophy of science, I will argue, in a first part of the presentation, that a concept ‘like’ the concept of style is ‘called for’ by the FHE approach to the history and philosophy of science. The starting point of the argument will be the observation that one of the typical traits of FHE is the idea that the history of science is irreducible to the chronology of discoveries within each scientific discipline (Canguilhem). For one of the tasks of the FHEpistemologist—with apologies for the barbaric abbreviation—is to identify patterns in the discourse and practices of scientists (in a capacious sense of the term that includes, as Canguilhem notes, those who grant themselves that honorific title without being quite entitled to it).

This irreducibility of the history of science to the chronology of scientific discovery, however, imposes an important restriction on how FHEpistemologists may go about identifying those patterns: they cannot rely on references to the scientific methods explicitly and self-consciously adopted by past scientists, as this would amount to adopting the latter’s perspectives, ensuring that the resulting history would be mere chronology. Hence the usefulness of a concept ‘like’ the concept of style for FHEpistemologists and the sense in which FHE ‘calls for’ such a concept. The notion of style enables FHEpistemologists to identify types of unity and coherence in scientific discourse and practices other than the unity conferred upon them by consciously adopted scientific methodologies. It enables them to see past scientific practice and discourse from a perspective other than that internal to the disciplines that constitute their object of enquiry. Borrowing Bachelard’s understating of the épistemologie as the psychoanalysis of the scientific mind, we might simply say that style is unconscious counterpart of conscious scientific method. More precisely, if less simply, we will say is that if the mark of scientific reason is that it consciously regulates itself through explicitly and self-consciously adopted and methodological principles, each ‘style of scientific thought’ (a variant of Hacking’s “styles of scientific reasoning”) is the concrete manifestation of the unconscious counterpart of scientific reason.

This insight, that the concept of scientific style is, within FHE, the functional analogue of the concept of method in alternative approaches to the history and philosophy of science, provides a useful entry-point for the second part of the presentation, the discussion of the relationship between the concepts of scientific and artistic style. I will argue that strictly speaking, the concept of method finds no application in the case of aesthetic production (while insisting that the concept of technique plays an analogous role), and offer the rudiments of an account of this difference between artistic and scientific production, and of the corresponding difference between the notions of scientific and artistic style, in terms of a difference between the teleological constraints that guide and govern scientific and artistic practice: while in the case of the sciences ‘the facts’ function as ‘hard external constraints’, the arts meet no such external constraints. Instead, they are ‘dialectically regulated’ by the aesthetic standards dominant within their respective cultural-historical settings, ‘soft’ standards which they aim to reconfigure and subvert without altogether forsaking.

Varieties of pluralism. Granger’s, Feyerabend’s and Hacking’s theories of scientific styles compared

Matteo Vagelli, Ca’ Foscari University of Venice / Harvard University

One of the “pluralisms” that proliferated in Anglophone philosophy of science during the second half of the twentieth century involves conceiving of the history of science as a history of “scientific styles”. A growing number of historians and philosophers of science have touted the concept of style as more flexible than method in conceiving of the historicity and plurality of the ways of thinking, discovering, and experimenting that constitute the sciences. Conflicting interpretations of “styles” in science mainly concern whether the term implies abandonment of the realism, objectivity, and progressiveness commonly understood to distinguish science from the arts. My aim is to give an overview of the different ways the concept of “scientific styles” has been understood in the history of philosophy of science. I will moreover try to show how some versions of this concept allows for a form of pluralism that avoids relativism.

In the first part of my talk, I will discuss how P.K. Feyerabend mobilized art historian Alois Riegl’s idea of self-standing cultural units (Kunstwollen, “will to art”) to show that different scientific theories, like different artistic styles, cannot be compared against a common background and are therefore “incommensurable”. From this perspective, expounded in Feyerabend’s Wissenschaft Als Kunst (1984), science is analogous to the arts in that neither shows objectivity or progress. I will then contrast Feyerabend’s view with the one put forward by Hacking, whose style-project, which spanned over 30 years, elaborates a notion of “styles of scientific reasoning” aiming to account for the objective and progressive nature of scientific knowledge and practice. By conceiving scientific styles as a relatively closed set of ways of finding out about the world and intervening in it, Hacking’s styles tend to accumulate-both reasoning strategies and ontological entities.

In the second part of my talk, I will analyse Gilles-Gaston Granger’s theory of scientific styles as developed in his Essai d’une philosophie du style (1968), a deeply original and yet scarcely studied epistemological analysis of style. Granger’s Essai, not available in English, has so far aroused interest only in French scholarship. In this work, Granger reworks the notion of style from the ground up, advancing an idea of “generalized stylistics” to theorize the dynamics mutually shaping objects and methods of production. Far from being merely ornamental, style for Granger becomes a category of formal thought through which one can reconsider the dialectics among theory and practice, abstraction, and individualization. I will highlight Granger’s Essai as an example of “comparative epistemology” that attempts to interrogate the boundaries of the natural, formal, human, and social sciences in terms of both objects and methods.

All three theories endorse a form of scientific pluralism. Yet whereas Feyerabend’s styles invite epistemic relativism and constructivism, Hacking’s and Granger’s theories show that style can support objectivity, realism, and progressiveness. Taking this comparative analysis as my point of departure, I will argue, against Feyerabend’s stylistic anarchism or epistemic “Dadaism”, that the historicity and plurality of scientific styles do not imply epistemic relativism.

Colloque: Claude Bernard. Histoire et philosophie d’une théorie physiologique (17-18 mai 2022)

Colloque : « Claude Bernard. Histoire et philosophie d’une théorie physiologique »

Lieu : Montréal, CIRST
Dates : mardi 17 & mercredi 18 mai 2022

Le colloque sera donné en format hybride

Le programme est disponible à l’URL suivant :

Prière de s’inscrire préalablement via :–orjIoGNeZgRqbomkhYgLZRWhCWhiU

Local : Université du Québec à Montréal

Pavillon Thérèse-Casgrain (W)
455, Boulevard René-Lévesque Est

Montréal, Québec, H2L 4Y2

Département de philosophie,

5e étage Salle W-5215

Informations :

Colloquium « Claude Bernard. History and philosophy of a Physiological Theory »

Location : Montréal, CIRST
Dates : Tuesday 17th  & Wednesday 18th, May 2022

The colloquium will be held as a hybrid event

The program is available at the following url :

Please register beforehand at :–orjIoGNeZgRqbomkhYgLZRWhCWhiU

Room : Université du Québec à Montréal

Pavillon Thérèse-Casgrain (W)
455, Boulevard René-Lévesque Est

Montréal, Québec, H2L 4Y2

Département de philosophie,

5th Floor, Room W-5215 

Informations :

Styles and Method in the Early-Modern and the Modern Period

Styles and Method in the Early-Modern and the Modern Period 
Spring 2022 – Online Seminar
Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia – Department of Philosophy and Cultural Heritage

European Commission – This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 101030646, “EPISTYLE”

Organizer: Matteo Vagelli (Ca’ Foscari/Harvard)
Further information:
APRIL 11, 2022  
17.30h CET – 16.30h GMT – 11.30 GMT-5
Carlotta Santini, CNRS
Reading well, writing well, living well. Friedrich Nietzsche and the question of style

APRIL 26, 2022
17.30h CET – 16.30h GMT – 11.30 GMT-5
Raz Chen-Morris, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Fantasy, Scientific Thought and the End of Baroque Science

MAY 2, 2022
17.30h CET – 16.30h GMT – 11.30 GMT-5
Denis Kambouchner, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne
Du style en philosophie, à partir de Descartes – entretien avec Denis Kambouchner

MAY 12, 2022
17.30h CET – 16.30h GMT – 11.30 GMT-5
Emilie Passignat, Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia
Manner: Connoisseurship and Taxonomy, Individual and Collective Identity

MAY 23, 2022
17.30h CET – 16.30h GMT – 11.30 GMT-5

Gianna Pomata, Johns Hopkins
The Unbearable Lightness of Thinking: Theory as “Capriccio” in 17th-Century Medicine
Matteo Vagelli, PhD
Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow (Ca’ Foscari University of Venice/Harvard University) 

Mois de l’épistémologie historique – Novembre 2020

6èmes Journées d’études sur l’Épistémologie Historique
Épistémologie historique et épistémologie de l’histoire

4, 12, 18, 25 Novembre 2020
17h-19h (Paris time)

Plateforme Zoom



Les journées d’études sont organisées par

Épistémologie Historique. Research Network on the History and the Methods of Historical Epistemology

avec le soutien de 

École doctorale de Philosophie – ED 280 (Paris 1)
IHPST (UMR 8590, Paris 1/CNRS)
PhiCO/ISJPS (UMR 8103, Paris 1)

République des Savoirs (USR 3608, ENS/ Collège de France/CNRS)
École doctorale Lettres, Arts, Sciences humaines et sociales –
ED 540 (ENS) – EUR Translitteræ (PSL)

Maison d’Auguste Comte



Mercredi 4 Novembre                  17h-19h (Paris time)

Paul Roth (University of California, Santa Cruz), Hacking’s Historiography?

Matteo Vagelli (Université Paris 1 Pantheon-Sorbonne), Does historical epistemology need a theory of history?

Lucie Fabry (École normale supérieure & Centre Marc Bloch), Epistemologies of history with a Bachelardian background: Granger, Althusser and Foucault.

Jeudi 12 Novembre                       17h-19h (Paris time)

Stefanos Geroulanos (New York University), Concepts, Metaphors, and Historical Epistemology.

Annagiulia Canesso (Università degli Studi di Padova, Istituto Italiano per gli Studi Filosofici di Napoli), L’histoire errante de la vérité entre Gaston Bachelard et Georges Canguilhem.

Alberto Vianelli (Università degli Studi dell’Insubria), Marc Bloch, un historien entre métier et démarche scientifique.

Mercredi 18 Novembre                17h-19h (Paris time)

Perrine Simon-Nahum (CNRS, École normale supérieure), Le jeune Aron : de la biologie à la philosophie de l’histoire.

Massimiliano Simons (Ghent University), History as engagement: The Historical Epistemology of Raymond Aron.

Iván Moya Diez (Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne), De l’universalité à la contingence des valeurs. La problématisation du jugement historique chez Canguilhem.

Mercredi 25 Novembre                17h-19h (Paris time)

Sophie Roux (École normale supérieure), La question de l’historicité des sciences chez les bachelardiens.

Silvia De Cesare (Université de Genève), L’idée de « progrès » entre histoire des sciences et histoire de la vie : analyse d’une analogie proposée par Thomas Kuhn.

Masahito Hirai (University of Tokyo), Le principe des conditions d’existence et son application en sociologie comtienne.


Comité d’organisation

Matteo Vagelli
Ivan Moya Diez
Lucie Fabry
Caroline Angleraux
Marcos Camolezi
Victor Lefèvre

Comité Scientifique

Christian Bonnet, CHSPM Paris 1
Jean-François Braunstein, PhiCo Paris 1
Hasok Chang, Cambridge University
Cristina Chimisso, Open University, UK
Arnold I. Davidson, Université de Chicago
Moritz Epple, Université de Francfort
Pierre Wagner, IHPST Paris 1

CFP – HPLS Journal: Normativity and the Life Sciences

Call for papers: History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences. 2021 Special Issue.

Topic of the Special Issue: “Normativity and the Life Sciences: Analytical and Continental Perspectives”

Guest editors: 

Luca Corti
Ivan Moya Diez
Matteo Vagelli

We are inviting submissions for a Special Issue of History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences. This special issue will be devoted to the topic of ‘Normativity and the Life Sciences: Analytical and Continental Perspective’. Below you can find the rationale of the Issue. 

Submission instructions:

All submissions, as well as inquiries about submissions to the special  issue, should be sent by e-mail to the guest editors:

Submissions must not be submitted to or be under review at other journals, books, etc.

Submissions should not be longer than 9000 words, they should be sent as .doc files and they should include an abstract of 150 to 250 words. The abstract should not contain any undefined abbreviations or unspecified references.

Submissions should be prepared for blind review: All identifying information about the author(s) such as names or institutional affiliations, have to be removed. Self-citations have to be anonymized.

Submission deadline:  October 15th, 2020 


In recent years, normativity and the status of norms have been at the center of several key debates in both the Continental and analytical traditions.. The question of normativity encompasses contentious issues touching various areas, including philosophy of biology, philosophy of mind and cognition, as well as metaethics. The development of disciplines tied to evolution (such as evolutionary biology, evolutionary psychology, etc.) as well as to the organisation of living beings (such as system biology) has driven a new interest and led to the introduction of crucial new perspectives into the philosophical conversation on norms.

Within this framework, the relation between norms and the phenomenon of life has become central: various thinkers coming from different philosophical traditions have analysed the problem of normativity from the premise that norms originate within life or the living organism and are tied to functions, or located norms in an evolutionary framework. Arguments from the life sciences have powerfully entered the debate not only in philosophy of medicine but also in metaethics..

We intend this special issue to open space for dialogue between philosophers and historians of science with different methodological approaches to normativity and its relation to the life sciences. By putting Continental, historical, and analytical approaches to vital normativity in conversation, the special issue aims to provide a synoptic view that sheds new light on individual topics, such as the origins and status of normativity in life or the strategies for naturalising norms offered by the theoretical framework of the life sciences. This dialogue will mobilize the work of Canguilhem, and, through him, the approach fostered by historical epistemology. It will engage analogous questions emerging from a classical German context. Literature on classical German philosophy and the problem of living normativity is abundant and scholarship on Canguilhem biology and vitalism is growing steadily, but no relevant connection between them has yet been drawn. This special issue will bring these two strands together and connect them with contemporary Anglo-American debates on the naturalisation of norms.

Topics for submitted papers might include, but are not limited to:

  • Normativity and explanation in the life sciences
  • Forms and accounts of biological normativity 
  • The notion of “function”: philosophical and historical perspectives
  • Norms and evolution
  • Historical reflection on normativity, life and cognition (in areas such as French Epistemology, Classical German Philosophy, etc.)
  • Vital normativity and the epistemology of the life sciences
  • Teleology and its normative import: philosophical and historical aspects
  • The relation between social and vital norms

Invited contributors:

Michael Ruse (Florida State University)
Dennis Walsh (Toronto)
Monica Greco (Goldsmith, University of London)
Silvia De Cesare (Université de Genève)

Journées Latino-Américaines d’Épistémologie Historique


16/07- Epistemologia histórica e história das ciências humanas
Marcela Renée Becerra Bátan (UNSL, Argentina), María Laura Martínez (UDELAR, Uruguai), Maurício de Carvalho Ramos (USP)

23/07 – Historiografia das Ciências
Marlon Salomon (UFG), Mauro Condé (UFMG), Francismary Alves da Silva (UFSB)

30/07 – História e epistemologia da Geografia
Larissa Lira (UFMG), Wolf-Dietrich Sahr (UFPR), Patrícia Aranha (USP)

06/08 – História e epistemologia da Psicologia
Iván Moya Diez (Université Paris 1, França), Marcio Luiz Miotto (UFF) Marcos Camolezi (Núcleo de Estudos Bergsonianos – NEB/UNIFESP),

13/08 – Ciências Humanas e Artes
Camila Gui Rosatti (USP), Paulo Knauss (UFF), Pedro Caldas (Unirio)

20/08 – Medicina e humanidades
Sandra Caponi (UFSC), José Ricardo de C. M. Ayres (USP), Kleverton Bacelar (UFBA)

27/08- Arquivos e big data

João Ohara (UFRJ), Miguel Palmeira (USP), Thiago Nicodemo (Unicamp)

03/09 – História do método

Fábio Ferreira de Almeida (UFG), Itamar Freitas de Oliveira (UFS), Tiago Santos Almeida (UFG),

10/09 – História da Historiografia

Felipe Brandi (EHESS), Rodrigo Turin (Unirio), Temístocles Cezar (UFRGS)

17/09- Para além do pensamento moderno
Federico Navarrete Linares (UNAM, México), Francine Iegelski (UFF), Marcos Lanna (UFSCar)

CFP – 6èmes Journées d’études sur l’EH – Paris 2020



Appel à Communications 

6èmes Journées d’études sur l’Épistémologie Historique
Épistémologie historique et épistémologie de l’histoire

Paris, 4-5-6 juin 2020



Les journées d’études sont organisées par

Épistémologie Historique. Research Network on the History and the Methods of Historical Epistemology

avec le soutien de 

École doctorale de Philosophie – ED 280 (Paris 1)
IHPST (UMR 8590, Paris 1/CNRS)
PhiCO/ISJPS (UMR 8103, Paris 1)

République des Savoirs (USR 3608, ENS/ Collège de France/CNRS)
École doctorale Lettres, Arts, Sciences humaines et sociales –
ED 540 (ENS) – EUR Translitteræ (PSL)

Maison d’Auguste Comte


L’étude des rapports que l’épistémologie historique entretient avec l’histoire révèle un paradoxe : d’un côté, la notion même d’épistémologie historique confère à l’histoire un rôle essentiel, en proposant de lier entre elles la réflexion philosophique sur les sciences et la prise en compte de leur historicité. Mais, d’un autre côté, force est de constater que l’épistémologie historique s’est très peu intéressée à la discipline historienne en tant que telle. Ainsi l’épistémologie historique n’a-t-elle pas développé, du moins à l’origine, une épistémologie de l’histoire.

On peut trouver l’origine de ce paradoxe dans les textes de Gaston Bachelard qui ont posé les jalons de l’historiographie propre à l’épistémologie historique. En affirmant que l’histoire des sciences ne pouvait être une histoire comme les autres, Bachelard y opposait point par point les exigences de l’historiographie traditionnelle — la rigueur descriptive et le souci d’éviter les anachronismes — et celles de l’histoire des sciences qu’il souhaitait promouvoir, qu’il présentait comme une histoire du progrès scientifique, résolument rétrospective et normative.

Dans la perspective de Bachelard, qui ne reconnaît d’autre forme d’historicité que celle de l’accès à la scientificité, on peut ainsi poser la question de savoir si la discipline historienne possède elle-même une histoire comparable à celle de la physique ou des mathématiques, ou si elle se rapproche davantage de l’anhistoricité du préscientifique. Les héritages pluriels de l’épistémologie bachelardienne que l’on a pu rassembler sous la notion d’épistémologie historique se sont caractérisés par différentes manières de répondre à cette question ou de la reformuler. Certains auteurs ont tenté d’appliquer les concepts et les méthodes de l’épistémologie historique à l’histoire elle-même. C’est le cas de Louis Althusser, qui présente l’émergence du matérialisme historique comme le dépassement d’une histoire idéologique et l’accès à une science de l’histoire. L’épistémologie historique s’intéresserait alors à l’histoire dans la mesure où celle-ci est capable d’accéder à une scientificité comparable à celle des sciences de la nature. Une tentative un peu différente de resserrer les liens entre l’épistémologie historique et l’histoire générale est proposée par L’Archéologie du savoir, qui s’inspire de l’épistémologie bachelardienne et de l’histoire des Annales pour élaborer un nouveau manifeste historiographique. Foucault nous inviterait alors à modifier les catégories initiales de l’épistémologie historique, pour poser la question plus générale du découpage des formations discursives, question qui s’appliquerait aussi bien à la science qu’aux autres phénomènes discursifs. Malgré ce précédent foucaldien, on peut se demander si les présupposés de l’historiographie bachelardienne ne font pas partie des facteurs qui pourraient expliquer la faible intensité des relations entre l’histoire des sciences et l’histoire des mentalités, que l’on a régulièrement déplorée.

Des auteurs comme Gilles-Gaston Granger, dont on connaît l’influence sur Paul Veyne, ont plutôt cherché à justifier le fait que l’épistémologie historique n’ait pas pris pour objet la discipline historienne, en avançant différents arguments pour montrer que l’histoire n’est pas une science. On pourra interroger, dans cette perspective, le statut qui est alors conféré à la démarche historienne, et se demander si le fait de refuser à l’histoire la scientificité ne vient pas, en retour, fragiliser subrepticement une épistémologie historique qui s’appuie sur l’histoire des sciences. On pourra finalement étudier des auteurs qui, tout en remettant en cause l’idée que l’histoire puisse être une science au même titre que les sciences de la nature, ont cependant refusé de la rapprocher de la connaissance commune : c’est ainsi le cas de Jean-Claude Passeron qui, tout en s’inspirant de l’épistémologie historique, revendique l’existence d’une différence radicale entre le régime de scientificité des sciences historiques et celles des sciences expérimentales, et montre que cette différence affecte les types de progrès et de discontinuités dont ces sciences sont susceptibles. On pourra ainsi se demander s’il n’est pas utile de revenir sur la distinction bachelardienne entre histoire des sciences et histoire générale en remarquant les différences entre les histoires des différentes disciplines scientifiques. La question, en effet, ne concerne pas seulement la discipline historienne en tant que telle, mais toutes les sciences qui se veulent “historiques” dans la mesure où elles portent sur des événements ayant eu lieu dans le passé et qui vont des diverses sciences humaines et sociales à la géologie ou à la biologie de l’évolution, pour ne citer que des exemples. Ces sciences sont-elles toutes historiques dans le même sens ? Dans quel sens et dans quelle mesure une discipline peut-elle se dire “historique” ? De quelle manière l’historicité d’une science est-elle liée à l’historicité de son objet et de ses méthodes ? 

Trois sont donc les axes que nous voudrions analyser à l’occasion de ces journées :

  • Axe 1 : Quelle est la spécificité de l’histoire des sciences par rapport à d’autres démarches historiennes ? 
  • Axe 2 : Vers une épistémologie historique de l’histoire ?
  • Axe 3 : La pluralité des rapports entre historicité et objets scientifiques dans les savoirs formels, sciences de la vie, sciences de la matière, sciences humaines et sociales.

Comme les années précédentes, nous souhaitons que le sujet retenu soit l’occasion d’une rencontre entre des philosophes et historiens des sciences aux options méthodologiques variées. Nous désirons donc recevoir des propositions adoptant dans des proportions diverses une approche historique et/ou analytique appliquée à la clarification critique de certains des concepts les plus centraux des sciences “sciences historiques” au sens large, allant de l’histoire historienne aux sciences sociales et aux sciences de la vie. 

Les propositions d’interventions (max 500 mots, plus une courte présentation du candidat) sont à nous faire parvenir, avant le 15 mars 2020 (date de réponse le 1 avril), en format word ou pdf à Les deux langues des journées seront le français et l’anglais. 


Call for papers

6th International Workshop on Historical Epistemology
Historical Epistemology and Epistemology of History

Paris, 4-5-6 June 2020


The workshop is organized by

Épistémologie historique. Research Network on the History and the Methods of Historical Epistemology

With the support of

École doctorale de Philosophie – ED 280 (Paris 1)
IHPST (UMR 8590, Paris 1/CNRS)
PhiCO/ISJPS (UMR 8103, Paris 1)

République des Savoirs (USR 3608, ENS/ Collège de France/CNRS)
École doctorale Lettres, Arts, Sciences humaines et sociales –
ED 540 (ENS) – EUR Translitteræ (PSL)

Maison d’Auguste Comte


Study of the relationship between historical epistemology and history immediately reveals a paradox: on the one hand, the very idea of historical epistemology assigns a central role to history, proposing to connect philosophical reflection on the sciences with acknowledgement of their historicity. Yet, on the other hand, one cannot fail to notice that historical epistemology as a field has concerned itself very little with the discipline of history as such. As a result, it has not yet developed an epistemology of history.

We can locate the origin of this paradox in the texts of Gaston Bachelard, which laid out the basic notions about history still characterizing historical epistemology. Recognizing the history of science as distinct from traditional history, Bachelard conceived history of science to oppose point-by-point the needs of traditional historiography – including its emphasis on rigorous description and concern for avoiding anachronism. The resulting history of scientific progress he presented was resolutely retrospective and normative.

Bachelard did not acknowledge any form of historicity other than the one made possible by overcoming the threshold of scientificity. He thus asked whether the discipline of history should be understood to have a history comparable to that of physics or mathematics or if it should be understood as closer to the ahistoricity of the pre-scientific. The plural heritages of Bachelardian epistemology that gathered around this question are characterized by their different ways of responding to or reformulating this question. Some authors have tried to apply the concepts and methods of historical epistemology to history itself. That is the case for Louis Althusser, who presents the emergence of historical materialism as the overcoming of an ideological notion of history and ascension of a science of history. Historical epistemology would therefore be interested in history to the extent that the latter is capable of accessing a level of scientificity comparable to that of the natural sciences. A somewhat different attempt to reinforce the links between historical epistemology and general history is put forward by Foucault’s Archaeology of Knowledge, which is inspired by Bachelard’s epistemology and by the history of the Annales and aims to elaborate a new historiographic manifesto. Foucault invites us to modify the initial categories of historical epistemology in order to ask a more general question about the emergence of discursive formations –a question which applies to the sciences as well as to other discursive phenomena. This Foucauldian precedent notwithstanding, one may ask whether the presuppositions underwriting Bachelardian historiography are not among the main factors explaining the weak relationship between the history of science and the history of mentality.

Authors like Gilles-Gaston Granger, whose influence on Paul Veyne is well known, have tried to justify the fact that historical epistemology has not taken the discipline of history as an object by putting forward different claims that history is not a science. Examining the status given to history in various arguments allows us to analyse the degree to which the move to deny history a form of scientificity marginalizes or renders precarious forms of historical epistemology that rely on the history of science. It also enables us to analyse the arguments of authors that, despite questioning whether history is a science in the same sense as the natural sciences, nonetheless refuse to consider it as closer to common knowledge: this is the case for Jean-Claude Passeron, who, while drawing on historical epistemology, sees a radical difference between the regime of scientificity of the historical sciences and that of the experimental sciences and argues that this difference affects the types of progress and of discontinuity these sciences instantiate. Exploring such arguments will make it possible for us to return to Bachelard’s distinction between the history of science and general history by remarking on differences between the histories of the different scientific disciplines. These questions are relevant not only for the discipline of history itself but also for other sciences that claim to be “historical” to the extent that they bear on events that have taken place in the past – from the human and social sciences to geology or the biology of evolution, just to mention some examples. Are all these sciences “historical” in the same sense? In what sense can a discipline consider itself “historical”? In what way is the historicity of a science linked to the historicity of its objects and its methods?

There are three axes we would like to analyse for this year’s workshop:

  • Axe 1: What is specific about the history of science in relation to other historical methodologies?
  • Axe 2:   What would it mean to move towards an historical epistemology of history?
  • Axe 3: How can we characterize and distinguish the historicity of scientific objects in formal knowledge, the life sciences, the sciences of matter, and the human and the social sciences?

As in previous years, we would like this theme to represent an occasion for encounter among philosophers and historians of science with different methodological approaches. In other terms, we would like to receive proposals adopting a range of historical and/or analytical approaches to critical clarification of the central concepts of the “historical sciences,” understood in the widest sense as spanning from history as such to the social and life sciences.

Proposals (500 words plus a short presentation of the candidate) must be sent by 15 March 2020 (notification of acceptance or refusal by 1 April) in Word or .pdf formats to Proposals by graduate students and early career researchers will be prioritized. The languages of the workshop will be French and English.


Confirmed Keynotes

Sophie Roux (ENS)
Paul A. Roth (California)
Perrine Simon-Nahum (EHESS)


Comité d’organisation

Matteo Vagelli (coordinateur)
Ivan Moya Diez (coordinateur)
Caroline Angleraux
Marcos Camolezi
Lucie Fabry
Victor Lefèvre

Comité Scientifique

Christian Bonnet, CHSPM Paris 1
Jean-François Braunstein, PhiCo Paris 1
Hasok Chang, Cambridge University
Cristina Chimisso, Open University, UK
Arnold I. Davidson, Université de Chicago
Moritz Epple, Université de Francfort
Pierre Wagner, IHPST Paris 1



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